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Universal Subtitles aims to caption or translate every web video

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April 14, 2010

Help wanted: the Universal Subtitle site will have all the tools needed for volunteers to ...

Help wanted: the Universal Subtitle site will have all the tools needed for volunteers to write and upload captions for web videos

Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF), the non-profit organization that makes Miro - the cross-platform, free software video player and downloader - has embarked on a Herculean task of subtitling all videos on the Web.

PCF is creating Universal Subtitles, an open standard protocol that will allow clients such as Firefox extensions, desktop video players, websites, or browsers to find and download matching subtitles from a whitelist of subtitle databases when they play video.

But first, the company needs the subtitles. That’s where you come in. Volunteers are needed to use the Universal Subtitles user-friendly interface to write/add captions and subtitles to almost any video on the web (no re-transcoding required). PCF says its mission is to make captioning, subtitling, and translating video publicly accessible in a way that’s free and open, just like the Web.

Currently, the team is working with other groups to define open protocols so that whenever subtitles for a video exist, any website or video player will be able to retrieve them. Together, they also want to foster a space where contributors can collaborate and also encourage further contributions (just like a Wikipedia for subtitles).

PCF says the Universal Subtitles site will have all the tools for versioning, incentives for different types of collaboration, and all subtitles created there will be available in any context via their open protocol. The site will encourage team formation for subtitling a particular program or topic; tracking which subtitling or translation tasks are the most requested; mobilizing volunteers and friends to help transcribe or translate a video, and splitting large tasks into smaller parts in order to get the job done with the least amount of hassle and in a timely manner.

“Together, our goal is for these and other compatible tools to enable a layer of collective action over all the videos we watch, one that is working constantly to break down language and accessibility barriers,” says PCF in its Universal Subtitles blog.

“Everything will be 100 percent free and open source, available under the AGPL.”

PCF’s work on Universal Subtitles has received seed funding from the Mozilla Foundation.

If you want to help, you can submit your details on the Universal Subtitles site.

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