MerlinOne has a long history of ensuring that data stored within its Merlin digital asset management system is readily available to a variety of users. Offering both dedicated client software (for Windows and Mac) and a web browser interface (for a variety of Internet-connected devices), the company is continually investing in technologies that bring Merlin to as many users as possible.
At the beginning of the planning phase for each generation of Merlin software, the company’s engineers evaluate technologies that might be used to bring Merlin to the widest possible audience. Lately, something interesting has happened: web browsers have evolved to the point where more and more of Merlin’s advanced capabilities can be deployed right there. We think this is great, because it means our system’s latest and greatest features are just a login page away, and our users aren’t burdened with installing any special software.
The web browser was originally conceived as a way to view publicly visible, structured files. These simple document-readers were to democratize the availability of information on the Internet – gone were the days of downloading a file and then hunting for the right program to open it. With a web browser, users could simply punch in a URL and watch as published information appeared on the screen. Composed of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), such documents were visible on any computer so long as it had an Internet connection and a web browser installed.
The component of a web browser that performs the rendering is called the rendering engine. The Safari browser incorporates a rendering engine called WebKit, and Firefox employs one called Gecko. In 2005, Apple released WebKit (which began life as KHTML) as open source. In retrospect, this was a landmark event, as WebKit would go on to serve as the basis for many web browsers including: Mobile Safari for iOS, Google Chrome, Android’s Browser, and the Nokia S60 browser. Meanwhile, the Gecko engine also continued to advance, and these new competitive threats ultimately motivated Microsoft to improve Internet Explorer. Where we stand today is that all of the major browsers are dramatically more efficient and consistent when it comes to rendering web content.
Dynamic Media in the Browser
Dynamic media typically refers to content that changes over time, such as audio, video, or interactive scenes. Although browsers have long been capable of presenting content of this type, they have typically employed proprietary, non-standard plug-ins to do so. In 2008, the first public, working draft for HTML5 was released. It included much-anticipated features that further improve the browser as an application delivery platform.
Among the HTML5 features that are widely supported by today’s web browsers is the <video> tag. To the engineers at MerlinOne, this is extremely important, as video assets are among the types of objects that can be stored in a Merlin digital asset management system. In the past, viewing a Merlin video asset from within your browser was made possible by way of a plug-in. While that does work, it limits what the web application can do with video and sometimes requires users to install additional software to acquire the plug-in. With HTML5’s integrated support for video objects, developers can create unique, web-based, video solutions as they benefit from better video performance, more control over how the video is presented, and more predictable layout behavior.
Thanks to the hard work of the engineers developing today’s browsers, we can expect to see ever more capable web applications gracing our screens. At MerlinOne, we are excited about these empowering new technologies and look forward to using them to create solutions that reach more users than ever before.
Senior Software Engineer
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