MathML and SVG in text/html


The editor of the HTML5 specification is not convinced that MathML and 
SVG are the right choice for use in HTML.  He apparently considers LaTeX 
and other formats as equally well suited as MathML [1], and VML and 
Windows Metafile format as equally well suited as SVG [2].  I don't know 
if he's genuine in this belief, or if he's merely setting expectations 
low so as to gain concessions to the markup and features allowed in 

I am inclined to believe that they are the most suitable formats 
(particularly SVG, though I find the arguments of the MathML advocates 
compelling, too); they have been designed from the ground up to be 
compatible with other Web technologies, specifially (X)HTML (and by 
extension HTML).  However, he may be right that they do not fit within a 
vision for HTML which is a monolithic generalized language covering all 
domains of expression, as opposed to a framework of multiple 
interlocking languages where each performs a dedicated function with 
applicable semantics.

This is the essence of CDF, of course, so as I mentioned at our last 
F2F, it may be that the best place for this to be specified is the the 
CDF WG, working closely with the HTML, XHTML, MathML, and SVG WGs.  The 
CDF WG understands the importance of preserving the original formats of 
each language, and limits itself to defining the interactions between 
technologies.  The HTML5 specification need only concern itself with the 
legacy requirements of the HTML language, and could provide a single 
point of extensibility, such as an <ext> element or a set of locations 
or circumstances under which other languages could be inserted.

Naturally, the goal would still be to have the same DOM serialization in 
XHTML as in text/html.  It would be a disservice to authors to introduce 
confusing incompatibilities.  It's my belief that the markup itself 
should be a close as possible to the original formats as well, for the 
same reason.

Given the momentum behind development in HTML in the browsers today, I 
think this may be the biggest bang for our buck, and I'd like to discuss 
this in our next telcon.  What do you think?

(Since we've agreed to act in public when the new charter goes through, 
I'm sending this to the public list, but also BCCing the CDF, MathML and 
SVG WG lists to make them aware.  If you prefer to respond on the 
member-only list, I certainly respect your privacy.)


-Doug Schepers
W3C Team Contact, SVG, CDF, and WebAPI

Received on Tuesday, 1 April 2008 01:33:43 UTC