[uf-new] an equation/MathML/TeX microformat?

paul_wilkins at xtra.co.nz paul_wilkins at xtra.co.nz
Sat Oct 27 16:17:22 PDT 2007

From: Paul Topping <pault at dessci.com>
> Instead of addressing the successes and failures of MathML, let's look
> at the many "solutions" to the equation display in a web page problem.
> There are many websites that represent equations as images. They do this
> because of the universal browser compatibility of HTML with equation
> images. MathML is not a solution as it is not close to being universally
> supported in browsers. This is a big issue in education which is usually
> not in a position to dictate browsers and, perhaps more importantly,
> doesn't want to embrace any solution that might require the user to
> download plugins and/or fonts. Equation images are 100% reliable.

Education places didn't want to enable javascript on their browsers because that gave the illusion of greater protection.
Now they have and they are more the richer from the experience.

MathML is a really good answer to the problem of displaying equations on the web, but it won't be more widely used until it's more widely used. There was a similar dilemma with shockwave flash, there has been an ongoing issue with support for various browsers, and there is beginning to be one once again with AJAX powered sites.

With all of these, the consensus has been to use the more advanced technology, but allow the user to use a lesser form should they desire.

MathML has to be the primary notation, otherwise it just won't make any ground at all. The TEX format if available can be incorporated as a title attribute, or even in plain text on the screen, with a link to a normal image for greater accessibility.

Anyone who uses MathML regularly will have the greatest incentive to update what's required so that they become able to use it. Those who occasionally use MathML will realise after a few experiences that doing some minor updates to their machine will bring greater usability for them.

If on the other hand we display images first and the more useful information elsewhere, what incentive is there to hunt out that other information. There is none.

The MathML standard has been around for long enough now, it's about time to start using it properly.

Paul Wilkins

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