- From: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>
- Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2006 01:06:49 +0300

On Jun 7, 2006, at 20:54, Ian Hickson wrote: > On Wed, 7 Jun 2006, Mihai Sucan wrote: >> >> Yes, it's true authors don't generally jump on whatever comes new >> (that's the reason MathML is not as widely used as LaTeX). > > I would say MathML is not widely used because MathML doesn't work > in HTML, > personally. I think it is an economic problem rather than a technical problem. It follows that I don't think the slow adoption is *necessarily* evidence of technical flaws. The part of population that is interested in mathematical typesetting is very small in proportion to the population as a whole. As I understood it at the time, that's why Netscape wasn't interested in devoting developer time to MathML. I don't know how decision making works at different browser companies, but I would hazard a guess that from the point of view of Opera, Apple and Microsoft, the business case for MathML is rather lousy compared to e.g. SVG, which is known to have spec problems as well, which conflicts with CSS and which also doesn't work in text/html. So far the track record with math typesetting software suggests that the people who most want it and need it are at the math and physics departments at universities and from time to time some of those people actually implement the required software as Free Software but it takes years. In those cases, there is no business model of making money off the software itself. Rather, the people are not motivated by money and cover their opportunity cost to a sufficient degree by getting paid monthly by a university (or perhaps occasionally by public sector grants). However, the problem with this model is that it is still a big deal to get a university actually pay the salary if the hours go to writing software (as opposed to math or physics research), because a Free Software math typesetter is kind of like a public good. It would make sense for all the math and physics departments in the world to pool money to fund full-time teams working on MathML software, but from the point of view of any single university, there's a strong incentive to try to be the free rider and hope the others get the job done. XSLT in IE and Firefox was enough to make Apple and Opera follow, even though it could be legitimately argued, that transformations from proprietary markup to HTML should happen at server side. Opera, Firefox and Safari doing SVG is enough to get Chris Wilson on the record saying that SVG is becoming a part of the "interoperable core" of Web standards. Apparently MathML in Gecko alone is not enough to push the others to consider it a part of the "interoperable core". Hmm. Freaky economic problems are nowadays solved with Google money. :-P > If we made MathML work in HTML, possibly with rules that make > the syntax easier (by implying tags as I suggested earlier) The implied stuff seems scary. I was hoping for no more tag inference beyond HTML 4 legacy. FWIW, I completely agree with James Graham that automatic conversion from LaTeX is *the* top-of-the-list requirement for any kind of Web math. (It follows that it is futile to insist on semantics that you can't pull out of LaTeX as it is normally authored.) I gather that TeX4ht is the state of the art here. That already puts MathML ahead of anything else that WHAT WG could come up with. Running code rules. (Forget latex2html.) If the WHAT WG really intends to address math, I think it would make sense to start by interviewing Roger Sidje, Jacques Distler, Eitan M. Gurari and Robert Miner to find out what they think are the problems that need to be solved (if any). -- Henri Sivonen hsivonen at iki.fi http://hsivonen.iki.fi/

Received on Wednesday, 7 June 2006 15:06:49 UTC