Firefox plugin delivers HTML-style audio and video browsing

Firefox plugin delivers HTML-style audio and video browsing

Summary: Australia's CSIRO research organisation has developed a Firefox plugin named Annodex that allows browsing through time-continuous media such as audio and video in the same way that HTML allows browsing through text. The organisation said in a statement issued this morning that "unlike other recently released video search tools, an Annodex search delivers actual video content.

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Australia's CSIRO research organisation has developed a Firefox plugin named Annodex that allows browsing through time-continuous media such as audio and video in the same way that HTML allows browsing through text.

The organisation said in a statement issued this morning that "unlike other recently released video search tools, an Annodex search delivers actual video content. Tools such as Google's beta video search work by searching a program's closed captioning text. The search results simply provide an excerpt from the text and a single still image from the program".

"In contrast, an Annodex search provides the user with a detailed summary of the video content, an interactive list of video clips, and hyperlinks to additional material".

The CSIRO has dubbed the technology behind Annodex Continuous Media Markup Language, or CMML. According to the organisation, "CMML does for time-continuous media what HTML does for text. It allows the user to search, access, navigate and query".

Project leader Dr Silvia Pfeiffer told ZDNet Australia  this morning that the reason the organisation chose Firefox as a development platform over Internet Explorer (IE) was the fact that Firefox's plugin architecture was easier to work with and the browser was supported across several platforms. The CSIRO had initially tried to develop Annodex for IE, but found that Microsoft's browser had numerous security holes.

Currently the software only supports playback of media webs that are encoded using the open source Ogg Theora (for video) and Ogg Vorbis (for audio) codecs. Pfeiffer said that the choice to use the Ogg codecs was based on the need for Annodex to be royalty-free and available to all users. In contrast, formats such as MPEG2 or MPEG4 have licences that "have to be paid for". In addition, according to Pfeiffer, while Theora does not have as high a compression ration as MPEG4, it is "quality wise as good as the MPEG2 format," and only "one level of quality behind the top-level compression codecs".

Pfeiffer said it was important to use open source technology as the CSIRO planned for "people to be able to generate [video and audio] media webs at home as they currently do Web pages".

According to Pfeiffer, Annodex has been in development for around four and a half years, and is now ready for commercial use. The project started off with only two staff members, but now is supported by four, in addition to "some good support" from the open source community who have contributed python and pico bindings for the software. In addition, Annodex is currently being distributed as part of Debian GNU/Linux.

The project chose to triple-licence the software under the Mozilla Public Licence, the GNU General Public Licence and the GNU Lesser General Public Licence due to the licensing requirements of the libraries that the project utilised. This means that all source code for Annodex is available from the organisation's Web site. In addition, at the site users can download the Firefox plugin and a video demonstration of the technology. Several sample media webs are also available for testing.

Topics: Browser, Emerging Tech

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  • Yeh, yeh, we all know that zdnet gets carried away with the press release hype (but, to your credit, is prepared to 'ask the hard questions' if prompted by readers) and we all know that you're also on the Mozilla (Firefox/Thunderbird) bandwagon, but frankly I can't see what all the fuss is about.

    I admit to also getting suckered into installing both Firefox and Thunderbird, and found that Firefox was more trouble than it's worth - from having to alter by browsing behaviour to trying to get the plugins to work.

    I've now gone back to the free Deepnet Explorer browser (www.deepnetexplorer.com) which I had been using for at least six months without a hitch, and I just love the fact that DE comes out with a new version every couple of months and is ahead of the crowd (including Firefox) with the latest user friendly features/benefits and security enhancements, plus if you have a question or issue they get back to you with an answer within 24 hours and if you offer a suggestion it's normally incorporated in the next version.

    Yet whenever you do an article/comparison on browsers it never mentions DE (which by the way has better/easier tabbed browsing than Firefox).

    As you can tell I'm an enthusiastic fan of this unheralded browser, and so are all my friends, family and business colleagues who are using it, some of who moved to DE from Firefox.

    What gives zdnet? All we hear from you is Firefox this and Thunderbird that. Now don't get me wrong, I'll be gladdly going to Thunderbird just as soon as they include a spell-checker (which I sorely need), but just because Mozilla have powerful friends in high places (and a proliferation of press releases telling us they're the 'only' alternative to IE) doesn't mean you can't do a little investigation of what else is on the market (for free) and provide a little balance to your otherwise splendid reporting and advice!
    andrew261
  • WOW! I'd like to talk with the researchers working on this if possible. I am collaborating with a group of people working on a similar system for museums using sets of images. Please contact:
    Deborah MacPherson
    Projects Director, Accuracy&Aesthetics, A Nonprofit Organization for the Advancement of Education, Cultural Heritage, and Science
    PO Box 52, Vienna VA 22183 USA
    anonymous