[whatwg] Mathematics in HTML5

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Thu Jun 8 15:51:01 PDT 2006

On Thu, 8 Jun 2006 juanrgonzaleza at canonicalscience.com wrote:
> Ian Hickson wrote:
> > I would say MathML is not widely used because MathML doesn't work in
> > HTML,  personally.
> I do not know from where this idea get up. SVG is relatively popular

Relatively speaking, SVG is not popular at all.

> and implemented in many browsers, but the same browsers implementing SVG 
> are rejecting MathML. They are rejecting because difficulties for 
> implementation, not because HTML lack of.

MathML was implemented in Gecko years before SVG.

SVG is seeing more implementation work than MathML simply because vector 
graphics has a greater target audience.

> In fact, I do not know a single criticism to MathML emphasizing the 
> point you state. All public criticism are to design options and 
> technical details independent of host language.

I've received feedback from members of the MathML community to the effect 
of "I wish I could use MathML, but I don't want to use XHTML" (i.e., 
MathML doesn't work in HTML).

> More the rejection from w3c MathML guys that do not want to see a 
> mixture of textual strings with MathML own elements.

The proposal is not to have textual strings mixed with MathML. It is to 
have simply real MathML, with defined parsing rules for getting the 
MathML out of text/html documents, since text/html isn't XML.

> I imagine that you mean Firefox browser with native MathML. Well I would 
> not call that “extensive and high-quality support for MathML.”
> I would say, “partial incompletete support of less than one half the 
> official specification”.
> Content MathML is not supported, only presentation MathML; of 
> presentation MathML not all tags are supported; of all tags supported 
> not all are working.

Ok, partial incompletete support of less than one half the official 
specification. It's good enough to do Math on the Web. (Heck, I was using 
MathML in my university work five years ago.) It's far better, IMHO, than 
you could ever achieve using CSS alone.

> You can begin from the most simple teste of the MathML official test suite
> and can see that MathML suport is weak in browser (I use Firefox 1.0) and
> even most simplest test are either not correctly rendered or not at all
> (compare with sample GIFS).
> [...]

With the exception of the notation="" attribute, these all rendered better 
for me in Firefox 1.5 than they did in the GIFs. I don't see why they 
wouldn't work in Firefox 1.0.

> [CSS could do this...]

If CSS can do this today, then you don't need any extensions to HTML. I 
would highly recommend persuing this in the microformats.org space, using 
the microformats development principles, and publishing a stylesheet that 
then renders the given microformat as high-quality mathematics.

In my opinion, CSS alone is not even remotely close to enough to render 
mathematics well. I would love to be proved wrong, however.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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