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Objectives and Results

In the original proposal, we said:

The primary objective of this project is to develop the technology to allow mathematics to be displayed in a meaningful way in modern multimedia computing environments. The vehicle for achieving this and the principal result of the project will be the OpenMath Standard which will define a framework within which diverse software packages ranging from web browsers to electronic books can exchange semantically-rich representations of mathematical objects. The standard will do two principal things: it will lay down rules for the representation of such objects; and it will define the architecture that a piece of software has to adopt to be ``OpenMath-compliant''. To have a chance of being adopted widely, such a standard has to satisfy the following essential criteria:
  1. It must not be biased towards any one particular application or software package.
  2. It must be reasonably efficient.
  3. It must be easily extensible.
  4. It must allow interactions with other widely-used encodings (in this case LaTeX and SGML/HTML).
The project intends to demonstrate that the OpenMath standard has these qualities through a series of prototypes involving mathematical software, electronic books and texts, and the worldwide web. This prototyping and development activity will feed back into the definition of the standard, ensuring that it is usable in practice.
It is clear that these objectives have been reached, although under somewhat different circumstances than we originally envisaged. Between the preparation of the workplan and the start of the project, the fledgling HTML-Math activity became the MathML working group of W3C and was close to releasing the first MathML recommendation [16] (it was published in April 1998). Perhaps not surprisingly a number of members of the Consortium were also involved in the MathML activity and the decision was taken that, rather than develop a conflicting standard, we should take advantage of the existence of MathML as a presentation medium and ensure that its limited support for content markup agreed with a well-defined set of OpenMath content dictionaries. This has arguably proved a very successful strategy and, with the recent emergence of support for MathML in browsers and plug-ins, we are reaping the benefits of that decision.

In the rest of this document we will describe the OpenMath standard and the various software tools and applications which are implementations of it. In addition to work outside the project, a number of third parties have also developed software based on the standard and provided valuable feedback and advice.

The original project programme also said that:

The ultimate objective for the project is to have OpenMath adopted by a suitable international standardisation body. Members of the Consortium are involved in related work in ISO (Mathematics subgroup of Working Group SC4/WG6) and the World Wide Web Consortium (the HTML-Math Working Group) and it is by these bodies that we hope to have OpenMath adopted. It is extremely unlikely, however, that this will happen within the lifetime of the project.
Here we have had more mixed success. Political considerations inside W3C mean that the existence of MathML effectively blocks their adoption of another recommendation related to mathematics, and we have come to the conclusion that the effort involved in going through ISO or a similar body is not worthwhile. Instead we have ensured that OpenMath is recognised as a compatible standard by a number of groups, notably:

To ensure that OpenMath continues to develop and is kept in line with new developments in the XML world and elsewhere, the OpenMath Society has been founded as an independent body. Its President and several members of its executive committee are members of the Consortium, but it includes many other people who were not involved directly in this project.

Overall then we feel that the project has met and in some cases exceeded its original objectives, while not being tied down to the precise details originally laid out in the workplan. The worldwide web is a fast-moving area and much has changed during the lifetime of the project. The participants have benefited greatly from the existance of the Consortium as a body, and plan to continue working together under the auspices of the OpenMath Society.

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Next: Technical Summary Up: The OpenMath Project Final Previous: Executive Summary   Contents
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