W3C has announced the third version of its standards for the inclusion of mathematical expressions in Web pages. MathML (Mathematical Markup Language) is aimed to make math on the Web more accessible and more international. While the basic markup remains the same, this version brings to it some improvements for assistive technology, as well as for formulas in languages that are written from right to left.
The MathML standard is supported in a number of applications already, beyond just websites - eBooks, equation editors, screen readers, braille displays, and computational software, for example. And it's part of the larger W3C Open Web Platform, which includes HTML5, CSS and SVG.
As browsers expand their support for HTML5, MathML support will be included. This means that embedding math in Web documents will become easier, and math software can more easily publish to HTML.
In announcing the new version, W3C stresses three areas: accessibility, education, and international interoperability. As testimony from Adil Allawi, Technical Director of Diwan Software Limited, an Arabic language software publisher makes clear, math - on the Web at least - is yet to be an "international language": "We have been working for the past five years converting Arabic school books to electronic documents, but we have always faced problems with mathematical books which rely on custom layout and fonts," he says.
An Example of MathML
Here's an emaple of how MathML works in order to represent the equation "x squared plus 4x plus 4 equals 0 The first example uses presentational tags, the second semantic tags.