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Re: MathML vs HTML math, vs ???

From: David Wheeler <wheeler@ida.org>
Date: Tue, 27 Jan 1998 11:08:55 -0500
Message-Id: <9801271108.ZM25407@aphrodite.csed.ida.org>
To: "Richard J. Fateman" <fateman@CS.Berkeley.EDU>
Cc: www-math@w3.org
On Jan 27,  7:47am, Richard J. Fateman wrote:
> Subject: Re: MathML vs HTML math, vs ???
>>>HEre is a simple piece of math.  f(x+y)
>>>
>>>What does it mean?
>>>
>>>Is it different from f*(x+y)  ?
>>>
>>>[If you want to require * for multiplication, much is salvaged, but
>>>not everything..]
>>>
>>>Cheers
>>>RJF
>-- End of excerpt from Richard J. Fateman

A fair question.

I think there's a simple answer, however:
"Whatever the MathML defaults say that means".

Now, I would suggest that the defaults should be
"function f of x+y", which I suspect is also what the
writer would expect.  And yes, why not require "*" for multiplication,
it's well-ingrained in users of computers.
Even if you're not used to it, it's trivial to explain.

If you don't want to see the "*" in printed text, you can
use separate commands markings
to determine whether or not (and when) the "*"'s are displayed and
how they're displayed, in a manner similar to SGML's and HTML's
separation of format and content.

Note that if a browser didn't support MathML, it would display:

  f(x+y)

which is easy to explain.  Try doing that with the current approach,
in which browsers throw away all the <> markings leaving a garbled mess.
And backward compatibility is important; many people CANNOT change
their browsers at all (e.g. they don't own the computer),
and many users do not upgrade often.  Look at the slow pace of Java 1.1
availability as an example.

Now it's likely that such a non-marked-up approach might not be as
"powerful" as the current approach.  Fine, use markups when the
defaults don't work.  But make it simple for most uses!

In summary: the current approach is terribly complicated
for humans to use and understand.  There's a better way, and many
people have demonstrated various improved approaches.  Let's work
to find a better way BEFORE a complicated approach is proposed
as a standard.  I don't think it will take too long given the work
that's already progressed.


-- 

--- David A. Wheeler
    dwheeler@ida.org
Received on Tuesday, 27 January 1998 11:06:22 GMT

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