Web users will soon be surfing video and audio content as easily as text and images thanks to some innovative Web tools being developed by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).
Dr Silvia Pfeiffer of CSIRO says the development of the Continuous Media Web (CMWeb) is as significant a development as was the emergence of the World Wide Web itself.
"It's the next big thing in terms of where the Net is heading," Dr Pfeiffer said.
"It's long been recognized that, while we can easily surf from text page to text page, when we want to experience rich content like video and audio we have to jump out to a separate application - and then all we get is a slower, jumpier version of linear TV or radio.
"Instead of just selecting a file and viewing it, now surfers can activate links while viewing video and audio files."
Annodex format media is the term coined by the researchers to describe the crucial twin processes of indexing and annotating content, the secret to fully integrating rich media content into the Web.
Indexing means that each segment of a program is uniquely identified and tagged.
Annotating means that each segment is described using a combination of formal metadata and free text descriptions - which can include transcripts.
Annodex format media can contain hyperlinks to audio, video or text content - so the whole Web becomes truly seamless. CSIRO has developed conventions for inserting hyperlinks into streaming media and specified a file format for combining anchor (link), metadata and media information in a single file. They have also developed tools for creating Annodex format media files and created the first CMWeb browser.
The core CMWeb tools are an open source development kit to encourage broad uptake of the concept. This includes the Continuous Media Browser for Apple's Mac OS X and server tools for
Linux, and tools for other platforms will be forthcoming.
A number of companies are already exploring the use of CMWeb in their software. Among the first is Australian digital media specialist, PIVoD Technologies Pty Ltd.