HTML5 (with MathML) becomes a W3C Recommendation
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) creates and maintains most of the standards that make the World Wide Web work, including the most important one, HTML. They have just announced that HTML5 is a W3C Recommendation, which may sound a bit non-committal, but it is what the W3C calls their standards. Although the world has been hard at work implementing the HTML5 set of standards for years, and this event was pretty much a foregone conclusion, this is still very good news! This specification defines the fifth major revision of the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the format used to build web pages and applications, and the cornerstone of the Open Web Platform. The specification, HTML5: A vocabulary and associated APIs for HTML and XHTML, explicitly requires that browsers support MathML.
This means that publishers can legally embed mathematics as MathML in HTML5 pages, which was not allowed in earlier versions of HTML. Unfortunately, not all browsers are going to implement MathML right away. As of this writing, the following describes MathML support in the major browsers.
- Firefox has good MathML support.
- Apple's Safari browser has some support and people are working to make it better.
- Chrome once had very rudimentary MathML support but they disabled it for security reasons.
- Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) used to have good support via our (Design Science) MathPlayer plugin but recent versions of IE disallow this kind of plugin so it no longer supports MathML.
When people bring up the lack of MathML support with these browser makers, their response is that there is not much demand for it. Ironically, educational publishers have built MathML into their publishing workflows, presumably because math accessibility is a requirement for selling their books in the education market. So far, this news doesn't seem to have reached the ears of browser decision-makers. Anyone reading this who cares about MathML support should write to the browser makers to demand they add MathML support.
Still, the passing of HTML5 as an official W3C Recommendation is certainly good news and, hopefully, means that good MathML support in all browsers will arrive eventually.