On October 21, W3C (the governing body responsible for web standards) recommended a new version of its Mathematical Markup Language for use on the web. Here’s an article about it from ComputerWorld:

The W3C has updated its MathML standard for rendering mathematical notation on Web pages to better portray basic math symbols, as well as render mathematic symbols in more languages.

The World Wide Consortium (W3C) is hoping that this new version of MathML will be rolled into the other group of standards being incorporated in browsers with the HTML5 Web page markup specification, such as CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics).

The new standard represents basic symbols such as for multiplication, long division, subtraction, and the carries and borrows addition symbols.

The new markup will allow educational Web page designers to add these symbols onto the pages instead of going through the cumbersome process of embedding small images of the symbols or formulas into the pages. The symbols will also help assistive technology such as screen readers interpret the mathematical material.

Before seeing this, I didn’t even realize such a thing existed. I read through some of the standards (here) and I wasn’t too impressed. For instance, check out this convoluted tagging that must be used to render the quadratic formula.

<mrow> <mi>x</mi> <mo>=</mo> <mfrac> <mrow> <mrow> <mo>-</mo> <mi>b</mi> </mrow> <mo>±<!--PLUS-MINUS SIGN--></mo> <msqrt> <mrow> <msup> <mi>b</mi> <mn>2</mn> </msup> <mo>-</mo> <mrow> <mn>4</mn> <mo><!--INVISIBLE TIMES--></mo> <mi>a</mi> <mo><!--INVISIBLE TIMES--></mo> <mi>c</mi> </mrow> </mrow> </msqrt> </mrow> <mrow> <mn>2</mn> <mo><!--INVISIBLE TIMES--></mo> <mi>a</mi> </mrow> </mfrac> </mrow>

Contrast that to , which allows you to render it with this very simple code:

x=\frac{-b\pm\sqrt{b^2-4ac}}{2a}

Ah…so nice! And here’s how it looks:

I’m open to having my mind changed–but I’m not seeing this new W3C recommendation as a usable standard. Anyone else have experience with it?

*[Hat tip: Tim Chase, my beloved brother]*