New W3C Music Notation Community Group Makes MusicXML, SMuFL Web Standards

does music notation still matter for electronic musicMakeMusic and Steinberg have announced the creation of the W3C Music Notation Community Group, tasked with maintaining MusicXML and SMuFL (Standard Music Font Layout) specifications as Web standards.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the international organization that creates and promotes standards for the World Wide Web. 

Michael Good, MakeMusic vice president of R&D, invented the MusicXML format in 2000, to create a standard interchange format for music notation applications. It has been adopted by well over 200 applications, including nearly all the major web, desktop, and mobile notation programs.

The MusicXML format was developed at Michael’s former company Recordare with the participation of a large and active developer and musician community. MakeMusic’s 2011 acquisition of Recordare’s assets, though, changed the community dynamics, since the owner of the format was now a competitor of many developers.

This increased the community’s desire to move MusicXML development to a more neutral forum. W3C Community Groups provide a way to move MusicXML development forward in a more open process, without the overhead of producing formal W3C Recommendations.

Steinberg is transferring development of its Standard Music Font Layout (SMuFL) specification to the same W3C Music Notation Community Group. Michael Good from MakeMusic, Daniel Spreadbury from Steinberg, and Joe Berkovitz from Hal Leonard/Noteflight will serve as co-chairs of the Music Notation Community Group.

“We are excited that the MusicXML and SMuFL communities are coming together as a W3C Community Group,” said Doug Schepers, W3C Web Standards Specialist. “Music notation is an essential cultural artifact, and worthy of having its own expression on the Web. W3C is pleased that our Community Groups framework will help move these important technologies forward.”

“I am delighted that MakeMusic has decided to transfer MusicXML development to the W3C,” said MusicXML inventor Michael Good. “Finale was the first widely used music notation application to support the MusicXML format. Today’s announcement continues MakeMusic’s leadership in open standards for the sheet music community.”

See the W3C site for more info.

2 thoughts on “New W3C Music Notation Community Group Makes MusicXML, SMuFL Web Standards

  1. At first, I misunderstood this announcement to be about web-related notation development.

    It sounds like this was more about moving the development of the XML and SMuFL formats to a more appropriate forums.

    Ultimately, these open standards will put energy into notation technology. And it will be good to see robust competition in the notation software market. There is certainly room for improvement there.

  2. The good news is that leading players in the music notation arena are at last willing to endorse and support a standard and public interchange format for music notation.

    One concern is that a format that relies too heavily on “implicit” data content can lead to confusion and the rise of mutually unintelligible dialects. Hopefully MusicXML can be tightened up to keep this from happening.

    Meanwhile let us have a moment’s pause in remembrance of the designers of NIFF. Their team did an excellent job of designing a concise and software-friendly music notation format with great potential for growth. But the world wasn’t ready…

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