MathJax Position Paper, TOC/W3C workshop 2013

Peter Krautzberger (, Manager, MathJax Consortium.

Neil Soiffer (, Senior Scientist, Design Science.

Participants' interest in the workshop

The MathJax Consortium ( was founded by AMS, Design Science and SIAM to solve the chicken-and-egg problem that mathematical content faced on the web -- publishing content was blocked by lack of browser MathML support and browser development was slow because of the limited amount of content. MathJax is an open source JavaScript library for rendering mathematical content in all modern browsers; it renders MathML, TeX, and Asciimath using HTML-CSS or SVG.

With the inclusion of MathML in EPUB 3, ebooks can reap the benefits of mathematical and scientific content becoming first class citizens of the web -- with matching fonts, sizes and colors to flawless rendering at different screen sizes, in night mode and other basic typesetting features that “regular text” has enjoyed for years.

In addition, MathML enables full accessibility by enabling users to customize the content to their needs, from zoom/enlargement to sync-highlighting (for learning disabilities) to speech and braille output.

Point of view

Even though MathML is a part of HTML5, native browser support remains spotty. While there is a greater interest now and some browser engines have seen improvements over the last year, MathML support remains unreliable, varying immensely across rendering engines, browser vendors, and browser versions, in particular on mobile devices.

Native support for MathML is important because javascript shims are slower both to run and startup (loading times) and might clash with other javascript, creating unnecessary complexity for implementations.

MathJax was able to solve the chicken-and-egg problem for MathML on both desktop and mobile platforms. But ebook reading software faces the same problem as long as  developers simply rely on the underlying browser engines to (eventually) do the job. While browser vendors tend to overstate their MathML support, content production seems to fall back on images -- seriously damaging the prospect of high quality, accessible scientific content.


MathJax has proven to be a reliable bridging technology for ebook reading systems. For example, it is used by IDPF’s Readium and Ingram VitalSource Bookshelf. Native MathML support remains a key goal for long term stability of mathematical and scientific content, so it is important to have transparent information about the current state of MathML support. We hope our extensive experience in this area can help in the discussions about innovative mathematical and scientific ebooks -- from reading systems to reliable testing in content production. We want to help everybody push the envelope on this crucial technology.