[whatwg] Mathematics in HTML5
michel.fortin at michelf.com
Mon Jun 19 11:46:20 PDT 2006
Le 19 juin 2006 à 10:25, <juanrgonzaleza at canonicalscience.com>
<juanrgonzaleza at canonicalscience.com> a écrit :
>>> In other words math proposal is rejected, mathematics in HTML is
>>> blocked one more time.
>> I have suggested a process by which you could prove your proposal
>> work. That is hardly a rejection.
> Some people can read between lines.
The way I read into Ian's lines, he simply says he is not at all
convinced that whatever we can come with will be preferred by authors
than MathML currently is. And I think it only makes sense that as
long as he is not convinced of that he will not agree about adding it
to HTML (hence "reject" it). That doesn't mean he isn't open to the
I think Ian is right in some way: adding full mathematics correctly,
even with CSS, isn't going to be a piece of cake. Bugs will need to
be fixed with many CSS engines, and even then the current markup
proposal isn't something I'd call pretty even for simpler structures
(<fenced><fence>1</fence></fenced> or <radical><radix></
radix><radicand>2</radicand></radical> for example). This makes the
markup a little counter intuitive and will probably prevent a consensus.
The idea of a microformat isn't a so bad idea either. A microformat
does for HTML mostly what a namespace does in XML. The one really big
issue I expect is that it's going to make the syntax a lot more
verbose less pretty that it is currently (<span class="radical"><span
class="radix"></span><span class="radicand">2</span></span> anyone?).
I can understand why someone wouldn't want to take that route.
I think there is still a lot to be done and discussed and maybe the
WhatWG mailing list isn't the best place for that at this point.
Isn't this discussion delaying other important things in the spec?
- - -
Personally, I'm beginning to look at the problem from an other angle.
Instead of trying to support everything in mathematics, maybe we
could just improve what HTML currently offers by offering just a
little more. It's pretty easy to find elementary algebra formulas
like this one on the web:
x<sup>2</sup> + y<sup>2</sup> = 1
But while you can express most of elementary algebra easily in HTML,
you can't do fractions. Something that's definitely missing for
elementary algebra is a construct capable of representing a fraction.
So I propose that HTML 5 adds fractions, and only fractions. I think
there is a good consensus on how to markup a fraction. I believe
fractions can also be somewhat useful outside the realm of
mathematical formulas. And a fraction construct would encourage
implementors to fix their inline-block and vertical alignment CSS
bugs, opening the door to more CSS-based mathematical markup in the
I understand I'm ditching all of the more complicated stuff. I'm
retaining only the part that can work with the least effort, the part
with a simple undisputed markup, the part which I expect every author
and user will understand for what it means and which has the biggest
relevance inside and outside of the field of mathematics. Maybe more
can be added to HTML in the future, but if only one thing about math
is to be added to HTML 5, it obviously has to be the fraction.
I guess one argument against this is that it will constitue an
incomplete mathematical markup. I'd point out that HTML is already
used as a simple (incomplete) mathematical markup with <sup> for
exponents. And it seems that even MathML fails at being a complete
mathematical markup. Let's keep things simple and just improve what
we already have.
michel.fortin at michelf.com
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