W3C Issues MathML as a Recommendation - Fact Sheet

The World Wide Web Consortium Issues MathML as a W3C Recommendation 

   MathML Fact Sheet 

             Press Release

                                   Fact Sheet


   MathML - the Mathematical Markup Language 

   MathML is intended to facilitate the use and re-use of mathematical
and scientific content on the Web, and for other applications such as
computer algebra systems, print typesetters, and voice synthesizers.
MathML can be used to encode both mathematical notation, for
high-quality visual display, and mathematical content, for applications
like scientific software, or voice synthesis, where it's important to be
able to understand the meaning. 

Based upon many years of experience 

MathML is cast as an application of XML and builds upon many years of
experience within the SGML and scientific publishing communities. In the
immediate future, several vendors will offer applet and plug-ins which
can render MathML in place in a Web browser. Translators and equation
editors which can generate HTML pages with images of the math expression
from HTML with embedded MathML code are already available. 

Why MathML is needed 

Before MathML there was no satisfactory method for including
mathematical expressions in Web pages. Anyone trying to do so had to
choose between two unsatisfactory work arounds. Either an approximation
of the equation could be constructed from ASCII characters or else a
snapshot of the expression could be converted to a GIF file and embedded
into the HTML as an image. Either way, users were unable to achieve high
quality results, especially when printed out. Furthermore, users were
unable to cut and paste into technical computing systems like
Mathematica and Maple in the same way they can cut text from a Web page
and paste it into a word processor. 

Efficient use of bandwidth 

MathML allows for a much more efficient use of bandwith because it
carries only the kind of information needed for the Web browser to
redraw the equation properly, rather than a complete pixel-by-pixel
description of what the equation looks like already drawn. In order
to perform this function, though, MathML needed a standard way of
describing the layout of a mathematical expression. Its conventions had
to be flexible enough to describe the wildly varying kinds of
expressions used in mathematics and science, yet simple enough
not to overburden the developers who would create the tools for creating
and displaying expressions in MathML. 

Being able to extract mathematical information 

MathML strikes a balance between offering a rich presentational
structure, and making available a means for associating the author's
chosen mathematical definitions with specific notational constructs,
thereby effectively extending ability of MathML to represent
mathematical concepts. A key concern has been the ability to support the
fundamental "archival" role that exists for Web pages containing
mathematics. Without extendibility and support for explicit semantic
bindings it is impossible to automate the extraction of meaningful
mathematical information. The semantic information is simply not present
in existing representations, especially those which focus only on the
visual presentation.
Attempts to recover the semantics are blocked by the ambiguous nature of
the visual presentation. 

   Making mathematics truly accessible 

For people with visual disabilities, learning mathematics has always
been an uphill climb. The emphasis on visual notation creates special
problems for devices that read text either on paper or on screen to
drive speech synthesisers or Braille displays. MathML will open
up the way for people with visual disabilities to study and work with
mathematical materials in a way that has never been feasible until now.
Increasingly, accessibility is a requirement, not an option, and covered
by laws requiring reasonable modifications of policies and practices
that may be discriminatory. 

   High level editing tools 

MathML is not designed for hand entry. Instead, authors will be able to
use a range of tools for editing mathematical expressions. W3C's Amaya
browser/editor can already be used to edit MathML and several vendors
including Design Science, Geometry Technologies, HP, IBM, Waterloo Maple
and Wolfram are committed to providing support for MathML. Existing word
processors will be able to generate MathML for embedded mathematical
expressions via export filters. 

The MathML specification has been produced as part of the W3C Math
Activity, and is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-mathml. For
information on W3C's work on mathematics, see http://www.w3.org/Math/ 

             Press Release

                                   Fact Sheet


    Contact America --
                       Ian Jacobs <ij@w3.org>

                       Kathryn Esplin <kesplin@w3.org>
    Contact Europe --
                       Ned Mitchell <ned@ala.com>
                       +33 1 43 22 79 56
                       Andrew Lloyd <allo@ala.com>
                       +44 127 367 5100
    Contact Asia --
                       Yumiko Matsubara <matsubara@w3.org>
                       +81.466.47.5111 ext. 3257

Received on Tuesday, 7 April 1998 13:01:32 UTC