5.1 Observations Concerning Webkit and MathML

Apple bases the Safari browser on its WebKit  open source project. Lack of MathML support was a longstanding complaint concerning WebKit in technical circles. After years of languishing on Apple’s todo list, the WebKit MathML implementation began to show signs of life late in the summer of 2009. As should be the case in the “perfect” open source world, this progress was due primarily to the efforts of an independent developer (Alex Milowski) who tackled the project without any apparent corporate sponsorship. In mid August 2010, largely due to the efforts of Milowski, MathML was enabled in the Webkit nightly builds. As is often the case in the “real” open source world, progress on the Webkit MathML implementation slowed significantly during August 2010 - July 2011 time frame as the primary developer appeared otherwise involved.

Desktop WebKit

Apple felt that the Webkit MathML implementation was sufficiently mature to release into the “wild” with the advent of OS X 10.7. On 20 July 2011, Safari was first released for distribution with MathML enabled (Safari 5.1). Safari’s MathML implementation is still a bit rough around the edges, but it is definitely better than the alternative.

For the curious, an image of Mozilla’s MathML Torture Test, rendered by Safari 6.0.1 running on OS X 10.8.2, is available here. The image from an alternate, unaffiliated MathML Browser Test is available here. The STIX 1.1 fonts were installed on the system that generated these images.

Mobile WebKit

Apple introduced MathML support to its production version of mobile WebKit with the release of iOS 5 on 12 October 2011. A screenshot of Mozilla’s MathML Torture Test rendered on an iPad under iOS 6.0 is available here. An image of the MathML Browser Test rendered on an iPad under iOS 6.0 is available here. Since iOS does not permit the installation of third party fonts, the STIX fonts are not installed on this device. As mentioned elsewhere,iOS 6 ships with the Apple Symbols font. If you peruse these images, it is apparent that this font – though a definite improvement over the iOS 5 fonts – is still missing a few relevant math symbols.

Note that shortcomings in the iPad software used to gather these images resulted in the loss of the extreme right portion of the MathML Browser Test output.

WebKit MathML Implementation Status

You can keep tabs on the progress at the Webkit MathML project  status page or the Implement MathML  master bug in the WebKit bug tracking software.