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

Re: MathML and the Dream of Math on the Web

From: David Carlisle <davidc@nag.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 14:20:17 +0100
Message-Id: <200210221320.OAA15714@penguin.nag.co.uk>
To: ping@zesty.ca
CC: www-math@w3.org

   To the 99% of existing browsers that understand
    images but not math, the semantics don't make any difference;

current versions of netscape and mozilla support mathml, current
versions of IE do as well with a free extension. I doubt that 99%
is true now and it certainly won't be true in the near future.
Even though people don't normally upgrade their browser until they
upgrade their machine I don't think its too much to ask people
interested in mathematics to make sure they have at least IE 5.5 or NS 7
or Mozilla 1. It is certainly more reasonable to ask them to do that
than to ask them to rely on a third party mediation site to render all
the pages they might ever want to read.

    it's important to be
    *able* to get the semantics if you really want them.  Agreed,
    and so you can -- just fetch the original document.

but mathml provides an xml encoding of that semantic so it's visible with
xml tools, the dom etc. The original document with teh mathematics in a
format that is only used by your system is a lot less useful.

    I'll bet most of them just want to read the
    math: as evidence, observe how many of them are happy with LaTeX.
    Certainly they would much rather get an image than get nothing.
    MINSE serves their needs,

If Minse served these needs it would be a lot more popular, but to be
honest I don't see any evidence of that. Certainly in the uses I have
for mathematics in web pages, having offline use is essential,
connecting to your server every time I want to see mathematics is not an

    If I use MINSE, I write this:

        <p>The hypotenuse of a right triangle can be found by:
        <se> a = 'root(b^2 + c^2) </se>.

Fine, if that's what you want to do. but on new browsers the MINSE user
would be much better served if your server served mathml rather than 
images. You argue that writing minse is a lot easier than writing mathml
I doubt anyone would disagree with you, but its a lot more useful to
convert that to mathml for transport/archiving. MathML is implemented or
being implemented in all the major computer algebra systems and all the
major browsers (bar opera, currently) a simple authoring scheme such as
minse makes perfect sense but sending images or minse source to the
client is far less useful.

        If I want the resulting MathML document to work both in
        IE and Mozilla, I also have to do one of the following,
        as discovered by Eugene:

As I pointed out in my response to that message most of those steps were
not needed or due to the requirements of the whole document being xml.

> Okay, what seems easier to you now?  Are you convinced yet?
Basically yes it is easier. It is easier to use standard tools to
manipulate the document (xslt for example) it's easier to make the
document work offline (on CDROM, or on my laptop when its not plugged
into the net) and its easier to make the final form look like
an integerated part of the document rather than some collection of
images. You say the
            pleasantly antialiased images you get from MINSE  [1].
but they look more or less pleasant depending on the resolution of your
screen and printer, they also look too large or too small depending on
the default text size that I have selected in my browser. That isn't
anything minse can solve while it serves images. If it served mathml
from the same input it would look a lot nicer, and all your arguments
about the ease of authoring minse would be moot.


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Received on Tuesday, 22 October 2002 09:20:32 UTC

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