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Web consortium captures captioning

The Web's leading standards organization charters a group to come up with a specification based on XML that will synchronize text with video or audio streamed over the Internet.

The Web's leading standards organization launched a new group to bring text captioning to streaming media.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) chartered the Timed Text Working Group (TTWG) to come up with a streaming text specification, based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), that will synchronize text with video or audio streamed over the Internet.

"Simply put, this is to have a broad standard for captioning on the Web," said W3C representative Janet Daly. "There's a lot of industry interest in this. The potential for entertainment is clear."

The W3C's timed text effort is not its first attempt to synchronize elements in multimedia presentations. One standard that has already reached the consortium's final recommendation status is the Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL, pronounced "smile").

But SMIL describes how to coordinate diverse media types in general terms. Without a specification for text, proprietary methods have cropped up, leading to text captioning that is specific to a certain browser or device.

Daly said the application would prove useful both for people who want to play multimedia content silently, in a restrictive environment like an office, and for people who are hard-of-hearing.

"This is not just for the slacker in the office, but for people with disabilities to capture the information in the audio stream," Daly said.

The newly chartered working group will hold its first meeting at the W3C's Technical Plenary March 6-7 in Cambridge, Mass. The group plans to release its first working draft March 15, and to finalize its recommendation in July of next year.