MathML finally supported in Google Chrome

MathML now supported by Chrome web browser.

This week marked an incredible milestone in internet history. After more than nine years of absence, the Chrome web browser landed support for the Mathematical Markup Language (MathML) web standard.

Of course, competing browsers such as Firefox and Safari already handle the general-purpose mathematical specification, meaning the standard is now actually standard across all of the main browser engines.

I am very excited for this as it means it is very simple to drop in this common form of Bernoulli's equation into a web page and be somewhat confident that users will be able to read it.

v 2 2 + g z + p ρ = constant

Bring it all back

This is all a lot of fun, but why does it matter? Well, MathML enables browsers to render mathematical expressions in a way that looks similar to how they would've appeared in a traditional textbook or research paper. It simply makes mathematical content more accessible and easier to understand on the web.

For the past decade, lacking a means to display expressions in a standardised way, developers have had to rely on ugly and unreliable Javascript hacks. This made content authoring and management much harder, while visually the look and layout never quite gelled with other text on the page. To put it bluntly, dealing with Chrome was a pain. Now though, with a native markup solution that sits in line with the HTML of a web page, everything works as it should.

I would one day love to understand the inside story on why it took so long to get to this point. Once upon a time, Chrome could render MathML, but support was removed in 2013 and nobody in the team cared enough to address it again.

Notably, Chrome developers didn't even do the groundwork for this release. It was the awesome people at Igalia who put in the hours and did the hard work bringing this feature to life. Crucially the code has been added to Chromium, the open-source browser project that multiple browsers build upon, so if you're using a browser such as Brave or Edge, support should be enabled soon.

I will be eternally grateful for Igalia's efforts. There were many times in past projects where cross browser maths support would have saved a lot of headaches. To celebrate, enjoy this beautifully rendered Navier-Stokes equation.

ρ ( v t + ( v ) v ) = ρ g p + μ 2 v

This is of course just scratching the surface of what is now possible in terms of creating interactive, dynamic mathematical content.

There is so much potential here to help make learning algebra concepts more engaging. What a great week for the open web.