Structured math on the web

Friday, December 8, 2006 - 9:00am - 10:00am
EE/CS 3-180
T. V. Raman (Google Inc.)
It is now 10 years since we started work on MathML. At the time, the Web was still in its early stages, and we began the work in a spirit of extreme optimism. After all, the Web emerged from the need to exchange scientific information, and we were all excited by the possibilities presented by being able to exchange more than just plain text — we looked forward to a time where online hypertexts would include structured mathematics that could be interactively manipulated and presented via a multiplicity of output modalities.
With 20/20 hind-sight, it is clear that we had taken an overly narrow view of the Web; having invented it in the context of scientific information exchange, we had assumed that all evolutions on the Web would be driven by the needs of scientific education. The market-place however taught us otherwise, and today, sceptics would say that structured mathematics on the Web is a failure and never likely to happen within mainstream browsers.
But in the midst of depression there is hope--MathML never became a mainstream browser feature and might well be called a failure by sceptics; however, the Web platform has now reached a level of maturity where adoption of new technologies by mainstream browsers is no longer a pre-requisite for success. With the emerging ability to deliver highly interactive Web applications that produce and consume structured XML, I believe we're now entering a new era of the Web where innovative user experience that leverages rich content such as MathML can be delivered to the end-user without waiting for browser vendors to ship their next long-awaited upgrade. Looking forward, what new innovations can we deliver in the field of online Mathematics, and how will these in turn contribute to future innovations on the Web?