- From: Andrew Mathas <mathas@maths.usyd.edu.au>
- Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 13:56:53 +1000 (EST)
- To: www-math@w3.org, mailing@maths.usyd.edu.au, list@maths.usyd.edu.au

Dear All: I have just been reading about the proposed MathML solution to displaying mathematics on the web. I would like to echo the comments of others that the proposed solution is absurdly complicated. For example, the present syntax appears to require that the font of every symbol be explicitly declared; would it not be more sensible to have a default font for every symbol inside a mathematics mode? Common features of mathematics, like subscripting and superscripting, plus (+) and minus signs (-), etc. should also have reasonable shorthands. Amongst the laudable goals listed for MathML at http://www.w3.org/Math/Activity.html we find the following: 1. Simple math should be easy to edit by hand (in particular by School children!). 2. HTML Math should handle the meaning in math. The complexity of the example given for displaying x^2+4x+4=0 shows to my mind that the designers did not read their own specifications. The specifications also state that the language should be rich enough to handle real mathematics; given the complexity of the above example I would estimate that some of the *one-line* formulae in my papers will require at least 100 lines to represent in MathML. This long syntax first takes a long time to parse and, second, a long time to transfer across the net. Is this really what you want? It has been said that these objections are not really valid because (i) people will not have to write MathML by hand, and (ii), MathML needs to be compatible with a large number of different types of users. I don't see either of these objections as being valid: (i) at some point people will have to enter something by hand, if you have to write 6 layers in order to let people be able to do this is, is this progress? For (ii), the simpler the base-level syntax the easier it is to meet the needs of different user groups. For example, default fonts in mathematics could easily be changed by <mathfont>-commands and specialized fonts could be inputed as needed (eg. with <em>-like commands). Since this is the way HTML functions already, I think you really need to justify *not* doing it this way. Interestingly, in a rebuttal (http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-math/msg00022.html) to a post in a similar vein, we find Robert Miner retreating from the easy to read goal to one of being easy to *edit*. However, if MathML is not easy to read (at least with simple expressions), I think it unlikely that either of these goals will be met. Best regards, Andrew Mathas

Received on Wednesday, 6 May 1998 23:57:49 UTC