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

Paul Topping pault at dessci.com
Sat Oct 27 16:38:45 PDT 2007

Yes, MathML is the "right" way to do equations, but after a decade of
waiting it's time to go with what actually works. That said, even if we
come up with a standard for associating MathML and TeX with images, I'm
not going to stop pushing for MathML. Equations displayed (and spoken)
directly from embedded MathML in the web page will have a number of
advantages over any other scheme. Just off the top of my head, they

- The font used in the equation can be made to match that of the
surrounding text in face, size, color, etc.

- When the page is zoomed, the equation display won't look pixelated as
with a blown up bitmap.

- Client-side scripting can modify the equation and it will update

- When spoken, sub-expressions may be highlighted in synchrony.

A good way to go for website designers is to do server-side browser
detection to detect MathML support. If present, a page containing MathML
equations may be returned. Otherwise, a page with equation images and
attached or embedded MathML should be returned.

Paul Topping
Design Science, Inc.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: microformats-new-bounces at microformats.org [mailto:microformats-
> new-bounces at microformats.org] On Behalf Of paul_wilkins at xtra.co.nz
> Sent: Saturday, October 27, 2007 4:17 PM
> To: For discussion of new microformats.
> Subject: Re: [uf-new] an equation/MathML/TeX microformat?
> From: Paul Topping <pault at dessci.com>
> > Instead of addressing the successes and failures of MathML, let's
> > at the many "solutions" to the equation display in a web page
> > 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
> 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
> 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
> MathML has to be the primary notation, otherwise it just won't make
> 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
> 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
> to start using it properly.
> --
> Paul Wilkins
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