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Re: Fwd: [Moderator Action] RE: Active lobbying: Math

From: Robin Berjon <robin@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 25 Aug 2015 11:21:28 +0200
Message-ID: <55DC3398.7020907@w3.org>
To: Peter Krautzberger <peter.krautzberger@mathjax.org>, W3C Digital Publishing IG <public-digipub-ig@w3.org>
On 24/08/2015 21:47 , Peter Krautzberger wrote:
> I think the main problem is that nobody really knows what it would
> technically require to implement good math layout in browser engines or
> what it would take to implement good MathML support.

Nobody might be stretching it, but it's certainly a very small group.

> * In my experience, both browser vendors, publisher, and third party
> vendors have surprisingly little knowledge of
>    * MathML as a markup language
>    * math layout in general
>    * MathML layout specifically
>    * math layout using OWP tech
>    * math accessibility using OWP tech

Part of the problem there is that you don't just easily fall into MathML 
in an incremental manner, say by first trying to tweak the rendering of 
something perhaps even as trivial as <var>x</var> and then building up 
from there. The first step is relatively steep compared to many other 
parts of the platform.

> * The ARIA spec has a massive hole where mathematics should be.

Asking naïvely: is there any reason not to start fixing this right now?

> * Neither browsers nor publishers are active in the MathWG (ok, maybe 1
> exception).
> * The MathML spec needs some work in an HTML5 context
>    * MathML has been "out of sync" (for lack of a better term) with
> HTML/CSS/SVG for a while
>    * MathML duplicates HTML/CSS features (sometimes the features are not
> compatible though never critically so imho)
>    * MathML hides quite a few complex layout features behind math
> syntax, complicating the implementation of both
>    * ContentMathML has failed outside of CAS.
> Another key problem is: MathML is neither necessary nor sufficient for
> math layout on the web. Nowadays, HTML/CSS implementations are good
> enough for (high quality) math/MathML layout. I'm not speaking of
> client-side JS-driven rendering but of (server-side) HTML+CSS generation
> that looks the same on all recent browsers.

That sounds like a great opportunity and a good starting point to 
rethink MathML.

Starting from HTML+CSS code that's ugly and poorly accessible, but at 
least sports high-quality layout:

   • What can be added to CSS that would clean up both the style and 
markup? What parts of that could actually be useful in other context?

   • What can be done to make it properly accessible, ideally built-in 
rather than bolt-on?

   • What could be added to HTML to make the markup simpler and more 
semantic, possibly by importing some elements from MathML more or less 
directly, without requiring them to be in a MathML context but without 
duplicating HTML functionality?

I'm repeating both myself and others, but going about this with an 
Extensible Web Manifesto spirit would surely help.

And I'm sure the WICG could be a great place to entertain 
(non-monolithic) new ideas and hash them out with support from browser 

> Personally, I don't think MathML will be implemented in browsers (though
> I'd be extremely happy to be wrong here and will support any effort in
> this group). I do think there are more realistic alternative goals such
> as improving CSS implementations incrementally and developing standards
> for exposing underlying data such as MathML to tools such as AT.


Robin Berjon - http://berjon.com/ - @robinberjon
Received on Tuesday, 25 August 2015 09:21:35 UTC

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