May 5, 2004

MathML is very cool, and viewing a piece of MathML in, say, Firefox (with the associated fonts) is an utter bliss. But do you realize how extremely verbose it really is? Take the example of x^2. Here's how you would mark it up with HTML:

x<sup>2</sup>

Which renders as such:

x2

Here's the same expression in MathML:

<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML">
<msup>
  <mi>x</mi>
  <mn>2</mn>
</msup>
</math>

Which renders like this (assuming, of course, you're using Firefox or Mozilla):

x2

Not really too verbose. But it gets worse if you have something like 2x^5a. HTML:

2x<sup>5a</sup>

Which renders as:

2x5a

And with MathML:

<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML">
<msup>
  <mrow>
    <mn>2</mn>
    <mo>&InvisibleTimes;</mo>
    <mi>x</mi>
  </mrow>
  <mrow>
    <mn>5</mn>
    <mo>&InvisibleTimes;</mo>
    <mi>a</mi>
  </mrow>
</msup>
</math>

And rendered:

2x5a

That's pretty verbose, no? There are several reasons why I bother.

  1. It's superior to using images and plain text.
  2. It can nest expressions to arbitrary depths.
  3. It prints and renders well.
  4. It's computable. I haven't seen a UA which can do this yet, nor have I really looked for one. But the idea is exciting.

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