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"I have honestly endeavored not to laugh at the actions of men, nor to bemoan them, nor to abhor them, but to understand them."

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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