W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-math@w3.org > October 2002

Re: HOWTO implement cross-browser-compatible MathML

From: Ka-Ping Yee <ping@zesty.ca>
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 2002 11:39:01 -0400 (EDT)
To: Robert Miner <RobertM@dessci.com>
Cc: hammond@math.albany.edu, <www-math@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.44.0210180149260.1049-100000@ziggy>

I wrote:
> MINSE enabled all of these user agents and more, including text-mode
> browsers, on all platforms, to display math six years ago (and today),
> without authors having to jump through the hoops necessary to get MathML
> to appear in just the particular browsers and configurations you listed.

Robert Miner replied:
> Sure, and imaged-based documents created with MathType, latex2html or
> Photoshop for that matter are also viewable in virtually any browser.

You have forgotten that MINSE expressions are medium-independent
(it's right there in the first two letters of the acronym "MINSE").
Although images are one target, they are not the only possible target.

> But to use MINSE for image generation, as opposed to a
> widely-deployed, well-supported, and easy-to-use tool like MathType,
> your authors had to use your proprietary pseudo-semantic markup,

It is interesting that you use "proprietary" like a bad word.  MINSE
is not proprietary at all: it is not protected intellectual property,
and it is neither for profit nor even associated with any company.
MathType is a very nice program, but it isn't accessible to everyone --
both because it is platform-limited and because it is a commercial
(or should we say "proprietary") product that people have to buy.

It is also interesting that you mention "pseudo-semantic markup".
MINSE is a semantic language -- there's nothing "pseudo" about it.
On the other hand, your disparaging term is more applicable to MathML,
which could be called "pseudo-semantic" because it allows both content
and presentation forms.  When one comes upon a piece of MathML, one
may discover that it is actually semantic, or non-semantic, or some
mixture of both (with complex rules for what kinds of mixing are
allowed or forbidden).  The existence of these two separate forms of
MathML only complicates the authoring and viewing process for everyone.

As for MathType, the situation is worse: it only generates the
presentation form, so its MathML documents aren't semantic at all.

> routing all their web traffic through a 'polymediator' server not
> under their control, and give up on compatibility with other Web
> stabdards such as XML, XSL, DOM, and CSS.  Those are substantial
> drawbacks.

The simple fact is that MINSE works.

Despite much more time and effort invested, MathML only somewhat works.
What you call "compatibility" with XML, XSL, DOM, and CSS is actually
a dependency on all of these standards, which results in susceptibility
to bugs and variations in the implementations of all these standards
in different programs on different platforms.  This is the root cause
of the MathML problems that Eugene Pivovarov is experiencing.

I agree with you that it would be nice to have a world where anyone can
edit MathML with a tool like MathType to produce Web documents readable
by everyone.  But unfortunately that's not reality.  The reality is that
people have to be intimately familiar with the MathML spec and behaviours
of different browsers to figure out how to make their documents work on
even a handful of browser/platform/plug-in combinations.

And that's rather sad.  It's just depressing to see people like Eugene
suffering with complicated workarounds (and needing "miracles" bestowed
by wizards like David) when there's a much easier way.

-- ?!ng
Received on Friday, 18 October 2002 12:43:21 UTC

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