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Spec to bring TV-like content to Net

The World Wide Web Consortium releases the first public working draft of a specification that promises to further the convergence of PCs and TV.

The World Wide Web Consortium today released the first public working draft of a specification that promises to bring television-like content to the Web, a key element in the convergence of PCs and TV.

Dubbed SMIL, for Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language, it avoids the "limitations of traditional television and significantly lowers the bandwidth requirements for transmitting this type of content over the Internet," according to the consortium. It does not require a programming language and can be performed using a simple text editor.

SMIL was developed by a group from the CD-ROM, interactive television, Web, and audio and video streaming industries. The companies involved include Digital Equipment, Lucent, Microsoft, Netscape, Philips, and RealNetworks, as well as research organizations such as Columbia University.

"SMIL avoids having to swamp the Internet with high-bandwidth video if you want to create television-like content," Philipp Hoschka, chair of the working group and editor of the SMIL specification, said in a statement. "Users can switch from 'couch-potato' mode into interactive mode with a simple mouse click."

He added that SMIL will have the same effect for synchronized multimedia as HTML had for hypertext.

The much-ballyhooed convergence of PCs and TV depends on low-cost, easy-to-use technology for processing information between the two media, analysts agree. This technical side of the equation must be achieved for the business model to work.