[whatwg] Mathematics in HTML5

White Lynx whitelynx at operamail.com
Tue Jun 20 06:11:28 PDT 2006

Juan R. Gonzalez-Alvarez wrote:

> Moreover, note once you have markup for fractions you can easily adapt it
> to others structures. This was my point. Reuse <table> <sup> and other
> stuff from HTML (such as people is really doing in practice) and introduce
> some basic constructs
> 1) fractions
> 2) sub-sup (basically are a “modified fraction”)
> 3) under-over (basically are a “modified fraction”)
> 4) roots (optional? Because some people prefer add the root entity to a
> radicand with overline)
> This implementation would be a kind of _tiny math_ and, I believe, nobody
> would be against this (no mathematicians) because obiously is cheap way to
> go beyond GIFs and can be shown that work aceptably well (specially when
> compared with MathML authoring using LaTeX or ITeX inputs).

The difference between fractions and the rest of proposal is that markup 
for fractions is the same across many DTDs and it is hard to imagine something different (only W3C can).
Thus markup for fractions is more or less unique. In the rest of proposal uniqueness it is not so obvious, but basically it is still there. For example consider overscripts. Up to naming conventions
is THE ONLY solution that works with CSS2.1. For the underscripts you have one option:
Look at matrices. In SGML one could structure them either row by row or column by column,
CSS lives only one option: row by row. So design principles like compatibility with CSS
make markup more or less unique (comparing to infinite number of options in SGML/DSSSL,
XML/XSL and LaTeX) and theoretically it should be much easier to find consensus on CSS friendly
math markup then to agree on math markup in general without any technical restrictions.

It is a pity that even in case when number of options is technically restricted to nearly one, we failed to find compromise on anything but fractions. In any case starting with fractions makes sense, but the reason is not implementability as for instance over scripts are even more CSS friendly then fractions. 

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