W3C MathML 3.0 Approved as ISO/IEC International Standard

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Read below what W3C Members have to say about MathML  3.0


23 June 2015 — Today the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), together with the Joint Technical Committee JTC 1, Information Technology of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), announced approval of the MathML Version 3.0 2nd Edition as an ISO/IEC International Standard (ISO/IEC 40314:2015).

MathML is the mark-up language used in software and development tools for statistical, engineering, scientific, computational and academic expressions of math on the Web. The Mathematical Markup Language provides ways to describe in XML both the visual presentation of formulas (with mathematical symbols, built-up formulas and font styles) and their semantics (with reference to different domains of mathematics). Its first version, MathML 1, was released in 1999.

"This important scientific standard, which is already widely deployed internationally, can now benefit from additional formal recognition from ISO, IEC and their national member bodies," noted Dr. Jeff Jaffe, W3C CEO. "The ISO/IEC recognition is expected to increase internationally harmonized adoption of MathML not only by standards bodies, governments and the scientific and academic communities, but also by browser makers, educational publishers and the broader Web community."

"ISO/IEC JTC 1 is very pleased to have the opportunity to take the important work of the W3C and have it transposed into formally approved ISO/IEC Standards," said Karen Higginbottom, ISO/IEC JTC 1 Chair. "We are pleased to continue the strong and constructive relationship between our organizations."

"As Secretariat of ISO/IEC JTC 1, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is very proud of the successful collaboration between ISO/IEC JTC 1 and W3C," said Lisa Rajchel, ISO/IEC JTC 1 Secretary.  "Approval of the W3C specifications once again demonstrates strong cooperation between the formal standards process and consortia."

MathML: A rich and powerful language

Because HTML was invented in a scientific laboratory, formulas in HTML were one of the earliest extensions proposed. Early experiments, such as HTML+ in 1993, led to the first version of MathML in 1998. MathML has been gaining support ever since, although it took until 2014 and the fifth version of HTML before math became a standard part of HTML, rather than an optional extra. MathML can now be used both on its own, as before, or embedded in HTML.

An important goal in making MathML a required part of HTML is to make scientific articles, or educational material, interactive. A formula is no longer just an image -- you can interact with it, right in the browser or other document viewer: e.g. copy and paste the formula into an equation solver and see the solution, point a graph plotter at the document and see the formula visualized, let a student solve arithmetic exercises right in the browser, etc.

MathML is an important asset for the Semantic Web. It can not only describe the visual, two-dimensional structure of a built-up formula, but also its semantics relative to different mathematical models, thanks to its integration of standard "dictionaries" from the OpenMath Society. (Different branches of mathematics often use similar-looking formulas, so some disambiguation makes automatic interpretation a lot easier.)

"This ISO/IEC standard is very timely" said Dr. Bert Bos, Math Activity Lead at W3C, "MathML improves accessibility authoring capabilities such as speech output. It continues to be the most successful interchange format between the major mathematical software packages, and is now on its way to becoming the lingua franca for all mathematics on the Web because of its recent inclusion in HTML5 and the Open Web Platform." 

The benefits of collaboration for interoperability

W3C has developed processes and policies that promote the development of high-quality, consensus-driven, royalty-free standards, many of which power the Web and enterprise computing. The ISO and IEC imprimatur increases the avenues for adoption of W3C technology and guidelines which in turn will increase deployment, reduce fragmentation and provide all users with greater interoperability.

MathML 3.0 was submitted to the ISO/IEC JTC 1 process for Publicly Available Specifications (PAS) in July 2014. W3C has been an approved JTC 1 PAS Submitter since November 2010, and is one of eleven (11) organizations that are currently approved. Under the PAS procedures, organizations recognized as valid PAS Sumitters can send their specifications directly to JTC 1 for national body voting to become ISO/IEC International Standards. To learn more about W3C and the ISO/IEC JTC1 PAS Submission process, see the W3C PAS FAQ and the JTC 1 website.

As an ISO/IEC JTC 1 Standard, MathML 3.0 is now also available from ISO/IEC and its national member bodies, including ANSI. JTC 1 recognition neither changes nor supercedes the existing W3C standard, which remains freely available from the W3C website. MathML is the third W3C standard to be recognized by ISO/IEC, after Web Services in 2011 and Web Accessibility Content Guidelines 2.0 in 2012.

W3C also provides a number of supporting resources for developers and users, which are available on the Math activity page. W3C Members have provided testimonials in support of MathML 3.0.

About the World Wide Web Consortium

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international consortium where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. W3C primarily pursues its mission through the creation of Web standards and guidelines designed to ensure long-term growth and stewardship for the Web. Over 400 organizations are Members of the Consortium. W3C is jointly run by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the United States, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France, Keio University in Japan and Beihang University in China, and has additional Offices worldwide. For more information see http://www.w3.org/

About JTC 1

The joint technical committee of ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information Technology, is a consensus-based, voluntary international standards group that works as a highly productive collaboration between ISO and IEC. More than 3,700 experts from 34-P-member countries come together in JTC 1 to develop mutually beneficial standards that enhance global trade while protecting intellectual property. The United States plays a leading role in JTC 1, with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) holding the secretariat and Karen Higginbottom, director of standards initiatves at Hewlett-Packard Company, serving as JTC 1's chair.

About ISO

ISO is the world’s largest developer and publisher of International Standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of some 164 countries as of July 2012. More than 100 of ISO’s members are from developing countries. ISO has more than 18600 International Standards in its currents portfolio. ISO’s work programme ranges from standards for traditional activities, such as agriculture and construction, through mechanical engineering, manufacturing and distribution, to transport, medical devices, the environment, safety, information and communication technologies, and to standards for good practices and for services.

About IEC

The IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) is the world's leading organization that prepares and publishes International Standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies – collectively known as "electrotechnology." IEC International Standards cover a vast range of technologies from power generation, transmission and distribution to home appliances and office equipment, semiconductors, fibre optics, batteries, nanotechnologies, solar energy and marine energy converters, to mention just a few. Wherever you find electricity and electronics, you will find the IEC supporting safety and performance, the environment, electrical energy efficiency and renewable energies. The IEC also manages Conformity Assessment Systems that certify that equipment, systems or components conform to its International Standards. www.iec.ch

Media Contacts

Karen Myers, W3C <karen@w3.org>

Elizabeth Neiman, ANSI <eneiman@ansi.org>

Testimonials from W3C Members

Antenna House, Inc. · C-DAC · Design Science, Inc. · Maplesoft · MathJax Consortium · University of Western Ontario

Antenna House, Inc.

The use of MathML extends far beyond STEM publishers and organizations and is extensively used both in the worlds of general publishing and corporate documentation, whenever equations are part of their documents being produced. Antenna House first offered MathML as a feature of our XSL-FO formatting engine back in November 2004. We now have hundreds of customers using MathML for producing equations within their documents. MathML as an ISO standard further strengthens the use of MathML for producing paged output.

Michael Miller, VP, Antenna House, Inc.


C-DAC GIST Research Labs has always been supportive of any technology that enables interoperability amongst people, softwares and platforms, Adoption of MathML by ISO is one of the important steps in ensuring its wider and methodical adoption. Working in language technology field in the past 22 years with current focus on Digitization, C-DAC sees this to be a positive step which will take mathematical express from image to actual form.

Mahesh D. Kulkarni, Associate Director & HoD, GIST Research Labs, C-DAC; Country Manager, W3C India

Design Science, Inc.

MathML was the first specialized format to be approved by the W3C. Since then it has become the lingua-franca for math communication, on the web and elsewhere. Approval by ISO is further proof of the importance of MathML in the world of STEM communication. Design Science continues its commitment to producing tools that enable the use of MathML and that make math accessible to all people with our recent release of a new version of MathPlayer. People with vision disabilities used previous versions of MathPlayer to listen to tens of millions of expressions; the new version extends MathPlayer's support of MathML to any browser and to other applications.

Neil Soiffer, Senior Scientist, Design Science Inc.

Demo of MathML in action, VoiceOver and Safari, by Bob Matthews, Director of Training, Design Science Inc.


Maplesoft has always been a strong supporter of MathML and the efforts of the community to freely share mathematics on the web and between software tools such as Maple. We are delighted that the MathML standard has reached this important new milestone of international recognition by the ISO.

Laurent Bernardin, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientist, Maplesoft

MathJax Consortium

The publication as an ISO standard confirms MathML's resounding success as the standard markup for mathematical and scientific notation. MathML provides a robust, unified markup that enables publication, processing and conversion of mathematics. It is fully accessible to both humans and machines and we see a rich ecosystem of applications.

While browser support remains limited to Gecko/Firefox and WebKit/Safari for now, polyfills such as MathJax build on MathML as it provides a canonical representation of mathematical notation made for the web. Overall, MathML has enabled a new generation of publications, learning environments, and online communities, in effect transforming learning, teaching, and research on the web and beyond. MathML is the core of STEM content on the web and I'm looking forward to seeing MathML evolve to meet current and future developments.

Peter Krautzberger, MathJax Consortium

University of Western Ontario

The standardization of MathML is key to "friction-free" interoperability among software components for e-learning and technical collaboration in the academic world.

Stephen M. Watt, Distinguished University Professor, University of Western Ontario

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