[whatwg] Mathematics in HTML5

White Lynx whitelynx at operamail.com
Fri Jun 9 01:38:56 PDT 2006

Ian Hickson wrote:
> I am not at all convinced that it makes any sense to rely on CSS to render 
> mathematics. CSS simply doesn't have the expressive power to obtain 
> acceptably good mathematical typography, and adding features to CSS to 
> obtain this level of expressiveness would require a huge specification 
> with such a small target domain than nobody would implement it.

This are just words without any background. Current markup proposal can
be consistently rendered using CSS2.1. If someone does not like shape of some particular
glyph, or radical is not beatiful enough, or size of brackets is slightly larger or smaller then
someone wants it to be, it is not the problem of markup. It is temporary problem (and for some not 
even a problem) that can be gradually addressed without too much noise and 
without getting level of expressiveness that would require a huge specification.
Even if this problems will be never addressed we still will have markup language 
that provides basic functionality. Even if for somec strange reason CSS will suddenly dissapear
(hard to imagine) we still have option to provide basic functionality via other style langauges

> 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).

MathML do work in HTML (originally MSIE with MathPlayer plugin did not support XHTML at all).
In Mozilla you can embed MathML in HTML using your favourite data URIs. 
You tend to over appreciate difference between HTML and XHTML, there is no real 
difference that could affect usage of MathML.

> 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.

Similar markup exists as XML application http://xml-maiden.com
In this way it can work independently from HTML and XHTML. However including
math markup in (X)HTML would be useful in terms of usability (no need to
use namespaces, reduced verbosity as users can omit optional elements, 
better integration with HTML etc.). I did not start this discussion and don't 
expect much from it, but since there is opportunity to solve problem of 
emdedding mathematical formulae in web pages and it practically costs
nothing to developers I think it would be reasonable to use this opportunity.

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

Generally speaking visiting pages like 
with Opera 9 or anything else that has sufficient CSS2.1 support should be enough
to prove that CSS can render math formulae. Those who don't have appropriate browser
can view PDF generated by CSS formatter (Prince 5) from XML source
I doubt you need more complex formulae, but if you need be assured current style sheet will
still render them consistently. Of course you can still complain that some particular glyph is not beautiful 
enough and therefore whole story is useless waste of time. Note however no one tried to block HTML because
blue undelined links were not beautiful enough, or visited links were too purple.

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