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Re: The disappointment and embarrasment of MathML

From: Neil Soiffer <soiffer@wolfram.com>
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 13:52:15 -0700 (PDT)
Message-Id: <200004132052.NAA07413@wolfram.com>
To: cool@dataweb.nl (Thomas Cool)
Cc: timbl@w3.org, www-math@w3.org
> Dear Tim Berners-Lee,
> You are probably under the impression that MathML is a good idea.
> May I invite you to read the paper linked below ?
> It isn't too late to stop it - but perhaps I am an idealist like you yourself.
> Kind regards,
> Thomas Cool
> http://www.dataweb.nl/~cool
> http://econwpa.wustl.edu:8089/eps/get/papers/0004/0004002.html
> http://econwpa.wustl.edu/eprints/get/papers/0004/0004002.abs
> also available at http://www.dataweb.nl/~cool/Papers/MathML/OnMathML.html

Dear Mr. Cool,

Thank you for your ringing endorsement of Mathematica.

Let me assure you that the work you have invested in Mathematica is
not wasted.  MathML is not meant to replace Mathematica or any other
software system.  It is a low level communication and archival XML-based
language.  Indeed, because of MathML, documents you write in Mathematica
can be exported to a variety of other applications, including browsers.
In Mathematica V4, simply choose
	File:Save as Special:HTML/MathML
and your notebook, math included, will be exported as HTML with MathML
for all StandardForm and TraditionalForm cells.  Similarly, documents
containing math exported by other MathML-enabled applications can be
pasted into Mathematica and used as part of a computation.

The MathML *standard*, as opposed to your suggestion of using
	<mathematics use="xxx"> and </mathematics>
means applications only need to understand one language, not a potentially
infinite number of languages.  Furthermore, the use of XML notation
means that the math is not invisible to standard XML processing tools.
This feature is used in the production of the MathML draft, whereby a
common XML source is processed by XSL transformations to produce HTML
(for the Web) and TeX (for print) versions of the draft.  It is also
planning on being used, I believe, by the Mozilla MathML implementation
to translate content MathML into presentation MathML.  There are many
things that I and others in the MathML group dislike about the SGML/XML
syntax such as its verbosity. But these dislikes are vastly outweighed
by the benefits of having a large and rapidly increasing number of
tools that deal with this syntax...  which as I mentioned earlier,
includes Mathematica.

Wolfram Research understood early on the importance of designing and
supporting a standard for mathematical representation on the Web in
particular, and in XML in general.  We have participated since the
beginning of the MathML group to help craft the standard and are on
the whole, quite pleased with the result.  I believe that the other
industrial members of the committee are also pleased with the result.

As a Mathematica user, you will probably never need to see the MathML
anymore than you need to see the Postscript used for graphics in
Mathematica.  But just as with Postscript and graphics, in the future,
you will benefit from what will hopefully be the universal acceptance
of MathML as a common interchange format for math.

    Neil Soiffer
    Wolfram Research
Received on Thursday, 13 April 2000 16:52:24 UTC

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