[whatwg] Mathematics on HTML5

Mihai Sucan mihai.sucan at gmail.com
Wed Jun 7 03:28:47 PDT 2006

[ Sorry for the delayed reply guys, being quite busy for a week and I have  
to do some catching up on this thread. ]

Le Thu, 01 Jun 2006 19:22:50 +0300, <juanrgonzaleza at canonicalscience.com>  
a écrit:

> Michel Fortin wrote:
>> One thing I know however is that the next time I'll have to put an
>> equation on a web page, I won't go looking for a MathML editor just   to
>> be able to generate the markup, convert the page to XHTML served   as
>> application/xhtml+xml (so that it works with MathML) and ask my   users
>> to install the required plugin or web browser just to see my   equation.
>> I'll use an image: it'll be a lot simpler.
> Not so simple if you need add maintenance, search, storage, printing, and
> accessibility items to the list of requirements.


> James Graham wrote:
>> In this situation, I imagine most scientists will simply write LaTeX and
>>  use a tool to produce the output format that they desire.
> I doubt because LaTeX has not the sufficient capabilities for a full web
> design.

Why not?

I looked into jsMath and I actually like it. I'd wish browsers would  
implement that.

WHATWG could add just one tag:
<math type="mime/type" src="file">
math content

That would work much like script does, or ... browsers could use the  
advantages of <object>. I believe the latter would be best suited, since  
it provides fallback capabilities.

As you said, as James said, and as far as I know, LaTeX is the most used  
language for mathematical scientific documents.

The fact the content in the <object> (the mathematical formulas) can't be  
styled via CSS, nor modified via JS+DOM, is by far a lesser problem than  
not having any support at all for any mathematical language.

If jsMath can achieve nice results via DOM manipulation for rendering  
LaTeX code, why wouldn't be a browser capable of doing that? It should  
actually be even more powerful, faster and capable of implementing even  
what the guy wasn't able to.

>> Look
>> at the test page - some of the rendering is awful (the radical signs in
>> particular stand out here).
> The approach was designed to be minimalist. Of course it can be improved.
> Moreover, radicals (looking better than in Firefox with native MathML
> support) could be best rendered via future CSS embellishments for math.

The rendering George achieved is not that bad, and certainly it's not  

>> And, despite being sold as a simpler
>> solution than a MathML implementation, it works in about 1% of UAs (by
>> number of users) compared to > 95% that have a story for native or
>> plugin-based MathML.
> Original approach works in many rendering engines including off-line
> engines as Prince. The approach has been recently generalized to work  
> also
> with several XSL-FO formatters (MathML does not fit in FO approach).
> Current problems are in current implementation of CSS standards rather
> than problems with George approach. For example, it is needed good  
> support
> for inline CSS blocks. Firefox has a bug on that. The same bugs affected
> Opera 8 and Prince 4, but were solved.
> [...]

I have to agree with Juan on this. The fact those scientific documents are  
rendered properly in about 2% of UAs (by number of users) is not a problem  
at all, since it all relies on the CSS implementation in the other UAs.  
This problem is bound to be solved in future releases of any UA. As Juan  
said: Firefox will have a fix. Internet Explorer is an atypicial (might I  
add a tragical) example, not worth going into details.

> "Mihai Sucan" wrote:
>> Another different take:
>> If LaTeX is considered to be the best available language for writing
>> mathematical scientific documents, and the best for printing too... why
>>  not have user agents implement it?
> It is not THE best. It is very good (but boring) at mathematical
> typesetting but is not good enough for web and reason was rejected for
> several mathematical markups (ISO 12083, EuroMath, MathML, OpenMath,

Why isn't LaTeX good enough for the web?

If we wouldn't have CSS and someone, today, would come up with a CSS-like  
proposal we'd trash it since it's not "good enough"? Please define "good  
enough" for the web.

I see LaTeX as was CSS 10 years ago:

- no implementation
- very different syntax (not SGML/XML based)
- no "DOM integration"

But LaTeX has important advantages:

- it is proven to be very good for publishing scientific documents
- it has many open-source implementations

As you can see, I am for reusing existing technologies and formats, not  
for adding yet another one.

The guys from Opera Software and Mozilla Corporation could just say "no"  
to everybody and just go ahead and implement support for LaTeX as  
<object>. That would really make all authors of scientific documents very  

Thing is, CSS implementation required big changes and was a different  
approach. LaTeX is just like implementing support for a new image format.

>> I'd be interested of your Canon (Markup Language).
> Thanks! M is for Meta, because the language is also a formal language :-)
> Please copy anything of interest and report me errors or best ways to do
> things.

I would like to see a specification of CanonML and working examples with  
an experimental implementation. Your site provides only talk about  
CanonML. Is it too early to ask for this?

If you have some, send it over to my (private email).

>> Math WebSearch - A semantic search engine
>> http://search.mathweb.org/
>> http://kwarc.eecs.iu-bremen.de/software/mmlsearch/
>> I'm not sure if searching math is entirely a myth. This is a recent
>> guided   research project done by a student of Dr. Kohlhase.
> I was referring to MathML. Somewhat as MathML is not very popular at the
> browser side it is not popular at the search engine side.

Maybe you didn't look into the site careful enough. I was also referring  
to MathML.

MathWebSearch is an entire application which deals with indexing Content  
MathML and allows users to input Content MathML code as search query.  
Therefore, that's not something different. As far as I know, the semantic  
search engine can be extended to any XML format (for indexing and for  
search query input). The guy actually added support for OpenMath search  
queries. More technical details are available in the page.

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