W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-math@w3.org > April 2016

Re: MathML is a failed web standard (or not?)

From: Andrew Robbins <andjrob@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2016 21:42:07 -0400
Message-ID: <CAAMbix+-Fy+PJ0Z-mRtBhLfOynv_vX6L+JqXBTJU65mmpGx64Q@mail.gmail.com>
To: Peter Murray-Rust <pm286@cam.ac.uk>
Cc: Paul Topping <pault@dessci.com>, "www-math@w3.org" <www-math@w3.org>
Dear MathML Subscribers,

I must admit that I have not read every word of both posts, but I already
know what this is about, because I have already encountered similar issues,
with both Presentation and Content. I'm not too concerned with
Presentation, because MathJax does an excellent job at that. What I am
concerned with is Content (i.e. Semantics), and to quote the original

    "Content MathML is just not relevant." -- Peter Krautzberger

I have been writing a set of tools for trans-language compilation for about
5 years now, (freely available at https://github.com/andydude/droxtools),
and the only system I've found that is is open, non-commercial, and easily
extensible for representing arbitrary concepts from every programming
language ever invented, is Content MathML. This is the opposite of "not
relevant", and Paul Topping failed to address this.

In my humble opinion, the reason why MathML has failed isn't because of
Content MathML, it's because of Presentation MathML, and it's not because
it isn't accurate, or because it doesn't look good, it's because people
prefer TeX over angle brackets. MathJax provides people the ability to show
the same beautiful math expressions on web pages, that Presentation MathML
promised but with many fewer keystrokes.

I don't care about angle brackets. I don't care about superscripts. The
only thing that interests me with regards to Content MathML, is the fact
that it is, at a fundamental level, a LISP where symbols are selected from
URI/RDF/XML/MathML namespaces. Granted, OpenMath/MathML namespaces are
naturally defined to be equivalent, but to apply to XML/QNames as well,
then you need a QName to URI mapping. I've seen two of these, the
"{NS}NAME" method (think Java/Ruby/Python) and the "NS::NAME" method (think
JavaScript/E4X), the first one fails to produce a valid URI, but the second
method does produce a valid URI, so that's what I've been using in my
tools. The point is that URIs are already a carefully controlled resource,
and so they are much more open than LISP's traditional filesystem based
package system, or any other system I've seen.

Just in the interest of full disclosure, there are closed, commercial
systems out there that do trans-language compilation, like the kind I'm
currently developing. https://www.semanticdesigns.com/ is an example of a
corporation involved in such a business. But I whole-heartedly believe that
the future of open-source software depends on having such tools available
as open source tools. This is starting to sound like a rant, so I will stop
it here.

Actually, I changed my mind. I still have to have a Content vs.
Presentation debate. As I said earlier, I agree that Presentation MathML
has failed, but that's because it's a failed viewpoint. Math isn't symbols,
it's semantics. From the beginning, MathML should have been about Content,
not Presentation. I think if we had focused on Content all along, then we
probably wouldn't be having this conversation now.

Andrew Robbins

On Fri, Apr 1, 2016 at 7:21 PM, Peter Murray-Rust <pm286@cam.ac.uk> wrote:

> I write as a chemist who has tried to do the same thing with Chemistry
> (CML, Chemical Markup Language). I have been inspired by what I see as the
> success of MathML and do not regard it as a failure. I am particularly
> interested in Content MathML as computable maths.
> The reality seems to be that it takes a generation for many of these ideas
> to be implemented. in 1998 SVG seemed to be the obvious way of doing
> graphics, but after 5 years it looked close to death. After 15 years it's
> become universal.
> CML is used by a small number of enthusiasts. The chemical software
> manufacturers don't care because they only care about the pharma industry
> and instruments. So we strugle on with a number of ad hoc broken
> representations of chemistry, which are still primarily graphical. There is
> almost no chemistry for blind people.
> The real problem is semantics. At the moment the world doesn't care. They
> will have to in the future. IoT demands semantics. You cannot compute
> pictures. Binding semantics to maths and chemistry is hard but it will have
> to come. I'd guess that people will need semantic math in 5 years and
> chemistry in 15.
> If you let the world be driven by browser manufacturers and publishers you
> will get a sighted-human vision of maths and science. The IoT won't need
> browsers.
> It WILL need semantic maths.
> On Fri, Apr 1, 2016 at 11:10 PM, Paul Topping <pault@dessci.com> wrote:
>> Hi,
>> Peter Krautzberger of MathJax fame, recently posted this on his own blog:
>> MathML is a failed web standard
>> https://www.peterkrautzberger.org/0186/
>> Obviously, he presents some challenges to the MathML standard and its
>> community. I felt that I had to respond:
>> Response to Peter Krautzberger's "MathML is a failed web standard"
>> http://bit.ly/1ZLfCF8
>> I hope this exchange prompts some serious dialog.
>> Paul Topping
>> Design Science, Inc.
>> "How Science Communicates"
>> Makers of MathType, MathFlow, MathPlayer, Equation Editor
>> http://www.dessci.com
> --
> Peter Murray-Rust
> Reader in Molecular Informatics
> Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
> University of Cambridge
> CB2 1EW, UK
> +44-1223-763069
Received on Saturday, 2 April 2016 01:42:37 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Saturday, 2 April 2016 01:42:38 UTC