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Re: Goals verses syntax in MathML

From: Patrick D. F. Ion <ion@ams.org>
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 02:51:20 -0400
To: mathas@maths.usyd.edu.au (Andrew Mathas), www-math@w3.org, mailing@maths.usyd.edu.au, list@maths.usyd.edu.au
Message-id: <v04003a37b177075603e3@[130.44.25.36]>

MathML is very complicated, at least in relation to a good number of common conventions that seem to hold up fine in contexts where quite a lot is implicitly assumed.  

Andrew Mathat deplores this and remarks rather scathingly:
<<
Amongst the laudable goals listed for MathML at
     http://www.w3.org/Math/Activity.html
we find the following:
     1. Simple math should be easy to edit by hand (in particular
        by School children!).
     2. HTML Math should handle the meaning in math.
The complexity of the example given for displaying x^2+4x+4=0 shows
to my mind that the designers did not read their own specifications.
<<

What seems not to be readily noticed is that the goals listed paraphrase those of the W3C Math WG.  

This WG used to be simply the W3C HTML-Math WG until it became clear that you can't just extend HTML a bit and get much math.  The first product of the Math WG is MathML.  It is a step toward meeting the goals the WG charter states.  With MathML we do not claim to have met all the goals set out, in particular 1 above.  But easy input in easy situations we hope will be achieved, though the "transport layer" language for maths, MathML, will continue to seem very complicated.  See for instance EzMath, or consider the easy generation of MathML code from your favourite CA system.

Obviously the proof of this pudding too lies in the eating of it.  Input environments and filters, renderers and embedding within larger documents will have to become realities for the Math WG's efforts to be judged a real success.  So far we have MathML and a growing number of tools that make use of it.  There will be more I believe.

Patrick Ion




		
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Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed above are my own and 
should not be taken as necessarily representative of the 
American Mathematical Society.
Received on Thursday, 7 May 1998 02:44:33 GMT

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