href="http:
Copy of Mail List Article by William F. Hammond
Math on the Web
William F. Hammond
Dept of Mathematics Statistics
hammond
Monday, August 17, 1998
href="http:Michael Hamm
writes to www:
Do any browsers (esp. any versions of Mozilla or MSIE) read the HTML3
MATH tag and the tags that go in it
In a single word, the answer is no
HTML 3.0 was a
href="http:1994
W3C draft that never got beyond draft stage
and was quickly superseded by
href="http:HTML 3.2
and, later,
href="http:HTML 4,
which contain
no provision for mathematics or,
better, ; but that does not really give mathematics
fully reasonable access to the web.)
Subsequent to the demise of mathW3C formed an HTML
Math Working Group whose work led to the creation of MathML, which
is now a href="http:W3C
recommendation with principal rendering implementations
available currently through (1)
href="http:WebEq
applets under mass market browsers, (2) the W3C testbed browser
(and pointhref="http:Amaya,
and maybe (I am not up to date)
href="http:IBM's
TechExplorerrelevant
source code of
href="http:Mozilla,
the public version of
href="http:NetScape, is available
now, too
While I understand and accept the reason for the exclusion of the
HTML 3.0 math tags from HTML, we have been left with a situation
that still presents a serious barrier to the efficient flow of
(unstyled) content
For mathematics on the web, there is a sense in which one can say that
there has been very little progress in the last 5 years since it became
possible to have network browsing tools, both under http and
gopher, quickly spawn external applications based on
mimetype
It is unclear how much improvement will arise as things evolve from
the dawn of MathMLMathML will serve
the needs of the mathematical, scientific, and engineering
communities, while still permitting the loss of much of what
we understand as content from many resources on the web
when that content is mathematical in natureMathML
For example, I think that it could very well develop to be at least
10 years before mathematical content can be searched through major
web indexing and cataloging sites in any remotely robust way, while
a great deal more would be possible more cheaply if a few
additional arrangements were made for dealing crudely but faithfully
with mathematical content in basic HTML
The arrival of the bazaar model of development in the
href="http:Mozilla Project gives
one hope that this will happen
The early long term plan, as I have understood it, of the
MathML group was to rely on the implementation in mass market
browsers of the type of clienthref="http:eXtensible Markup Language
(XML), and, in particular, a type of XML that
might be called HTML extended by MathML
(presentation tags)
The idea of XML is to make up your own HTMLrendering information about these tags
in a style sheet languageXML document contains a reference to the corresponding style
sheet, which is also available, under a style sheet mimetype, on
the webXML documentXML dream
The first rendering efforts with MathML were appletMathML planning envisioned the creation of a
mimetype for HTML extended by MathML and
the creation of an independent rendering application (whether plugin
or external) with specific knowledge of this markup languageW3C's Amaya appears to have HTML extended by
MathML as its default language
The tag approach to MathML probably is more
sensible for the long run than HTML extended by
MathML if only because MathML is so much more granular
than HTMLMathML, I tend
to perceive that task as not any easier than that of local direct setting
of href="http:
Geoffrey Tobin's DTL (printable ascii equivalent of
DVI)MathML is probably
too much to ask of native rendering by mass market browsers though it
is certainly in scale for plugins and external apps
There is still an issue in the eyes of some, on which I am neutral,
of whether there is, or will be, a widely used style sheet language
that is rich enough to provide the desired level of rendering of
MathML presentation tags
We need all of the good relevant plugins and external apps that the
community has the energy to providecontent
Even if one wishes to set aside the need for audio, Braille, indexing,
and searching streams, envision, for example, going as a visitor to
look up something on the web in the San Francisco public libraryvt100) access to the network via the browser lynx
at a station that is availableyou a way to avoid waiting
In windowing situations it is not too much to ask for
the mathematical typewriter emulation (MTE) standard
in mass market browser native rendering as part of native HTMLMTE is just emulation of the mathematical typewriter prevalent
in all mathematics departments during the period 1960
MTE is more in scale with ordinary HTML
than is MathML, which is much closer to fussy typesetting
All that needs to be added to basic HTML is:
- the horde of character entities
that we need (in scalable fonts with algorithmic styling for bold,
emphasis, and perhaps also several forms of alternateHTML is already less beautiful than TeX rendered by "xdvi" a simple element (logical group)
with attributes for horizontal and by the ascii character
" and the closetag by the
balancing
character "lg
tag could be used to change the crude rendering strings
and to other ordinary
string values including empty onesMathML tag from which the current
lg was fabricatedMathML could be reconstructed)
- elements (paragraph level) and
displaymath (block level) in which
- the new lg tag is permitted all character level things are
rendered one at a time with interexcept for
the case of strictly alphanumeric character level things inside
lg tags containing no whitespace, which will be assumed to
symbols that might be given " treatment in
My understanding is that eventually the horde of characters and cursor
movement will be possible with w3 in
href="http:GNU Emacs
under a windowing display
Inasmuch as there are very few vt100 terminals extant that
are not running in displays under local platform windowing systems,
it is reasonable that the scientific and textvt100
terminals