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Wolfram Launches Computational Document Format

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the kinder-gentler-document-format dept.

News 167

Barence writes "Wolfram Research has launched its own document format, which it claims is 'as everyday as a document, but as interactive as an app.' The Computational Document Format (CDF) allows authors to embed interactive charts, diagrams and graphics into their documents, allowing readers to adjust variables to see how increasing a price affects profits, for example, or display different segments of a brain scan. Wolfram aims to make the format easy enough for non-programmers to use, based on the linguistic commands used in its search engine. '[Currently] anyone who can make an Excel macro should easily be able to make interactivity for CDF,' said Conrad Wolfram. 'Where I'd like to get is that anyone who can make an Excel chart can make interactivity in CDFs.'"

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167 comments

So, how is this not going to be macro virus hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36835954)

or something like ActiveX control hell? All that interactivity has to come from embedding something.

no viruses, just sales (1, Troll)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836072)

the embedded language is relatively simple and based on Mathematica 8. It doesn't appear to provided system functionality like ActiveX.

It seems obvious that this "free" CDF thing is used to drive sales of Mathematica, because the only way to compose these documents is to run their rather expensive software ($2500 for a single user commercial license). The player is free though, but honestly I don't see why there needs to be a player at all. Why can't it just export as Flash and HTML5?

Re:no viruses, just sales (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836328)

With Wolfram? I can see the HTML5 export happening once adoption takes off.

As for flash? I can see that happening when hell freezes over, which I'm fine with. I'd rather have a player made by them than by Adobe.

Re:no viruses, just sales (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836550)

practically I don't see my co-workers being easily convinced to install the Wolfram player.

Re:So, how is this not going to be macro virus hel (1)

PSVMOrnot (885854) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836080)

or something like ActiveX control hell? All that interactivity has to come from embedding something.

They could sandbox it so that no item embedded within a document can modify anything outside the document.

Re:So, how is this not going to be macro virus hel (2)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836194)

And we all know that there's never been a fault with anyone's sandbox implementation before ;)

Re:So, how is this not going to be macro virus hel (1)

klubar (591384) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836126)

Isn't this pretty much what Adobe did with PDFs.... the reader was free but you had to pay for the writer. Then they enhanced it by adding scripting for interactivity.... and we all know how secure PDFs are.

Re:So, how is this not going to be macro virus hel (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836400)

If the scripting language doesn't have any access to external data, what sort of attack vector could there be?

Re:So, how is this not going to be macro virus hel (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836440)

Exploit a bug in the viewer app to give full access to the user account?

Open format (2)

tsa (15680) | more than 2 years ago | (#36835958)

From the website: Wolfram currently provides the CDF specification as a public format, meaning it is publicly available, openly documented, and natively unencrypted.

Let's hope it stays open.

Re:Open format (3, Insightful)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836154)

Don't touch it without an assignment of copyright to a community body and a patent indemnification.

Wolfram (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836310)

Not sure how many Mathematica cluster exist, but Sage has started eating their server side market. Sage's various backends are just way better designed for really intensive computational work, while Sage & Cython reduce the learning curve for each.

I hear that Wolfram's salaries kinda suck too, btw.

Re:Open format (2)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836306)

Funny thing. I've been poking around their website and I can't find this publicly available open documentation anywhere...

I've met some of the people who make Excel charts (2)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 2 years ago | (#36835960)

I think he greatly overestimates them.

But I've also made some pretty cool Excel charts, so this will probably be a neat tool for people who can actually use it to its full potential.

Relevant XKCD (2)

naroom (1560139) | more than 2 years ago | (#36835962)

Re:Relevant XKCD (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836142)

It is? Is there another (open) document standard that has this same functionality?

Re:Relevant XKCD (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836190)

Sure, it's called HTML (with a little help from CSS and Javascript).

Re:Relevant XKCD (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836218)

That's a bit harder to craft than what they are aiming for... an interactive chart in an html document?

Re:Relevant XKCD (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836296)

Uh, yes, just use one of the libraries designed for that, like gRaphael or Highcharts.

Sure, the editor may be nice for non-programmers, but they could've just exported to HTML/JS instead of creating yet another format that requires yet another viewer, which probably won't be available for many platforms.

Re:Relevant XKCD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836298)

There's at least two. .ods and .gnumeric.

sage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836392)

Sage goes in every field.

HA! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36835968)

Nth post!

(Please compute correct ordinal here.)

I wonder... (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 2 years ago | (#36835970)

Was there any thought whatsoever in terms of security when they developed this format? A document that can embed other objects sounds like an excellent method for distributing malware, etc.

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836768)

And I can put anthrax between the pages of a paper bound copy of my presentation.

Why did they not think of the security???

Sometimes you just have to get your information from a trusted source. Geeze.

Re:I wonder... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837244)

Of course, it depends greatly on what kind of operations the format allows. If the operations are limited and well-defined, then it may be able to be done with relative safety. If you're embedding a full programming language and allowing the document to execute arbitrary code without sandboxing the whole thing, then you're right, it's a disaster waiting to happen.

This XKCD pretty much sums it up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36835974)

This XKCD on proliferation of standards pretty much sums it up:
http://xkcd.com/927/

Power without Wisdom (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 2 years ago | (#36835984)

For the same Reason Excel and Powerpoint aren't real analysis tools I expect many people to abuse this tool to prove the wrong things.

Or like the Powerpoint Space Shuttle Foam issue, inadvertantly give the wrong message because they don't know how to convey what they mean to get across.

Why "Excel" chart? (1)

cellocgw (617879) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836022)

Most people have no clue how to create a chart that accurately and cleanly shows what they want it to show (Edward Tufte excepted, of course). Frankly, Excel misleads people and directs them into terrible designs or, even worse, into false designs (think of using a "line chart" when what's needed is lines in a "scatterplot."
I sure hope Wolfram can come up with a much *better* way to generate proper charts than Microsoft ever has.

"anyone who can make an Excel macro" (1)

Cragen (697038) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836032)

Which leaves out, by my estimate, 99.99% of all the users I have ever supported.

Re:"anyone who can make an Excel macro" (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836312)

That struck me too. Most user have no clue what a macro is, let alone how to make one.

But don't you need an application first? (1)

maetrix (179195) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836036)

So they're releasing the document format without having a specific application for it such as
Adobe Acrobat : PDF
Corel Draw : CDR
MS Word : DOC
etc...
It's like they're putting the onus on developers and reap the profits of licensing the format out.
-Mætrix-

Re:But don't you need an application first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836124)

So they're releasing the document format without having a specific application for it such as
Adobe Acrobat : PDF
Corel Draw : CDR
MS Word : DOC
etc...
It's like they're putting the onus on developers and reap the profits of licensing the format out.
-Mætrix-

Mathematica can produce it, since it's based on the Mathematica notebook format, which essentially structures the whole document using their functional language. You essentially need to be able to parse a LISP like syntax, and then implement a whole mess of a library of functions.

Re:But don't you need an application first? (1)

stereoroid (234317) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836152)

Well, I think it's a given that Mathematica support will not be long in coming. Great if you can afford it, which I can't, so I'm waiting for 3rd-party support. Maybe I can roll my own basic tools.

Wait for third-party tools (2)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836046)

From TFA:

Users will require Wolfram's Mathematica 8 software to create CDFs, while end users will require the free Wolfram CDF Player to view the documents.

Re:Wait for third-party tools (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836164)

It gets worse. From the EULA:

Certain functionality in the Product may require the Software to access collections of data available through external servers. WRI makes no warranty that access to such data will be uninterrupted or that the data itself will be error free. WRI reserves the right to restrict access to, add, update, modify, or remove collections of data based on availability, Your service subscription, or otherwise at WRI's discretion.

So once they get enough suckers signed up, they can make it a pay service.

Re:Wait for third-party tools (5, Informative)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836292)

Yeah, they seem to be abusing the term "free" and "public" in a manner that I don't think most people would expect. From the licensing page:

Computable Document Format (CDF) is a free public format, and under the Wolfram FreeCDF terms of use, your CDF documents along with their content are freely redistributable to anyone using the Wolfram CDF Player.*

And that asterisk?

*FreeCDF terms automatically apply to CDF files created by Wolfram products, but do not allow:

  • Charging others for using your CDFs
  • Preventing others from republishing or redistributing CDFs that you give them
  • Removing our logo or other displayed branding

Which looks suspiciously like their "free public format" is, in fact, closed and proprietary.

Re:Wait for third-party tools (0)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836658)

That's only a tad more restrictive than the GPL.

Re:Wait for third-party tools (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837144)

That's only a tad more restrictive than the GPL.

I see nowhere in the GPL that an application compiled or created by a GPL program should be GPL too.
They are speaking of document created by YOU.

Please, stop trolling.

Re:Wait for third-party tools (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837500)

You do realize that if you distribute binaries that are GPLed that you have to provide the source as well, right. These aren't so much documents as they are programs.

Re:Wait for third-party tools (2)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838158)

But they are still programs created by you. It would be like Microsoft saying anything created in Visual Studio belongs to them.

Re:Wait for third-party tools (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836858)

Which looks suspiciously like their "free public format" is, in fact, closed and proprietary.

I think "open and encumbered" is the description you're looking for.

I actually read about a quarter of "A New Kind of Science" and still can't believe that Wolfram doesn't get non-zero-sum games after all that.

Interesting idea (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836066)

My initial thought was 'but what would CDF provide that a spreadsheet can't?"
As it turns out the Wolfram website has some interesting examples. For example the user can drag a slider to change an input value and see the result in graphs, or use the same method to change a photo (using filters).
I see some potential applications in my field (user manuals for complex machines).

Re:Interesting idea (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836220)

A couple of lines of framework enhanced Javascript can do the same. Why wouldn't they write an editor that exports to HTML/JS? Oh right, that would make it actually open, and not locked in to their viewer. Nevermind.

Re:Interesting idea (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836442)

To be fair, Mathematica is a hugely complex computer algebra system and numerical solver. That functionality could not be replicated in HTML/JS reasonably. The article isn't clear if there are restrictions on the complexity of the backend in the format--for instance, can you type in different initial conditions and numerically (heck, symbolically!) solve a system of PDE's, graphing the result? That would be a nightmare to implement in HTML/JS.

Re:Interesting idea (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836532)

can you type in different initial conditions and numerically (heck, symbolically!) solve a system of PDE's

Nope, at least for the 'type in' part:

All interactive content must be generated with the Manipulate command and may only use mouse-driven elements, such as Slider, Locator, Checkbox, PopupMenu, etc.

CDF? Really? (4, Insightful)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836086)

They have to take the same acronym as a 20+ year old file format for storing numbers [nasa.gov]?

It's almost like they didn't bother putting the term 'CDF file [google.com]' into a search engine to see if anyone [microsoft.com] else [w3.org] was using that acronym already for a file extension [filext.com]. (of course, w3 even used it twice [w3.org])

Re:CDF? Really? (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836278)

At this stage pretty much any TLA is being used by someone as a file format name.

Re:CDF? Really? (1)

Lazareth (1756336) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836414)

Have you considered that pretty much every basic three letter file extension that makes any sense has already been used at some point in time somewhere? There is no real authority as to who "owns" an extension, only a general consensus.

Re:CDF? Really? (2)

crush (19364) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836678)

You're assuming malice. But the most likely thing is that they used Wolfram Alpha [wolframalpha.com] to search for "CDF" instead of using Google or Ixquick. ;)

Similar cluelessness abounds in their comparison chart which claims e.g. that HTML5 is incapable of a "dynamic document hierarchy" while "Readers can dynamically open and close chapters and sections in CDF documents. CDF also supports hierarchical, tab, slide, flip, opener, and other document organizations."

MathCAD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836108)

Sounds a lot like MathCAD. You embed "live" equations in Word documents. Only problem is that you need MathCAD to edit the equations or update the plots. If OpenOffice implemented something like this (like I read TFA... pfff) I would drop Word so fast.

Sounds good but... (5, Insightful)

TheRecklessWanderer (929556) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836128)

It sounds good but look at all the problems adobe has with PDF. People embedding viruses and trojans. If this format were to be used, would it really be all that different?

How about MathCAD? (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836148)

As far as I know, MathCAD can do all this already. It's not an open source format, I guess, but the trick is not as much in encoding the formulas but in solving them in real time.

Re:How about MathCAD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836192)

There have been many previous ones that have supported various features. Its significant that its open and used by wolfram.

really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836236)

At 221MBs, the "player" is more like an OS.

Re:really? (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836340)

I downloaded it and it's 101 MB. Still huge, but not as big as yours. What OS are you using? (Windows XP here). Also, it seems to insist on installing to the C drive, so I canceled the install. Our corporate overlords only give us a very tiny C drive to play with.

Re:really? (1)

phearless (2040630) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836876)

167 MB (download), 533 MB (installed) on OS X, Safari. And, because it took me 15 minutes to find all the bits and pieces, I'll add:

To uninstall on OS X (10.6), delete:

/Applications/Wolfram CDF Player
/Library/MathematicaPlayer/
/Library/Internet Plug-ins/Mathematica.plugin
/Library/Spotlight/Wolfram Notebook.mdimporter

Bloated mess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836258)

The player is already almost 500Mb when installed for the first version... If it follows Adobe Acrobat steps, it's not going to get any better... Call me uninterrested.

Requires Mathematica (2)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836270)

I see that Mathematica will be required to create documents, but the target audience for this document format (repeatedly described by Wolfram and simple and easy) seem that they would have little use for a powerful and quite expensive piece of technical software. The format looks convenient if you already happen to be a Mathematica user, but it's a little strange to aim at a wider audience who are unlikely to have use for most of Mathematica's functionality.

Re:Requires Mathematica (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836758)

Alsp, CDF Player is a 101 mb download - just for a viewer; looks like a lot of bloat to me.

Re:Requires Mathematica (1)

Monkey-Man2000 (603495) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837134)

Alsp, CDF Player is a 101 mb download - just for a viewer; looks like a lot of bloat to me.

Apparently, it's also a glorified calculator with the Mathematica engine under the hood if it does what they claim.

Security (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836288)

And virus, bot, and trojan makers the world over rejoice at the new opportunities for exploits! This looks like it will be a bitch to make secure. On the other hand, it also does look like it could be pretty cool.

Also, oblig xkcd [xkcd.com].

Whats the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836294)

Everyone is moving to cloud services so having an interactive document is equivalent to browsing the web. I think the Apple and Android app stores proves that developing software is no longer complicated and all kinds of interactivity can be developed rather easily, so why bother with an interactive document format that offers less features. I think this concept has missed its mark by about 20 years and there are more then enough exceptional technologies one can employ to offer a much better interactive experience.

mod 04 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836372)

GAY NIGGERS from and/or distribute charnel house. Of a solid Dose Work that you lube is wiped off A BSD box (a PIII

arggh... (3, Informative)

Tei (520358) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836374)

I don't like how Wolfram use existing formats. How hyperlinking graphics from Wolfram break, and so on. Don't seems fair players on the internet.

Creating a new file format? cool. Where is the extensive documentation site online? ... what is this, a formulary to enter my data? WTF?, This smell like a propietery format to solve his problem: Wolfram don't want to play by the internet rules, don't want people from hotlinking his graphics, and stuff, so don't want to use GIF and PNG. Want internet to change to adapt to thenselves.

I think I say here DO NOT WANT.

I don't trust Wolfram Alpha (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836572)

Not when they cannot perform simple geometrical calculations.

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=triangle+with+sides+0.4592+meters%2C+0.6+meters%2C+0.6+meters [wolframalpha.com]

180 degrees, not 181, should be the sum of all internal angles.

Re:I don't trust Wolfram Alpha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836940)

I just tried it, and I get the correct answer of 180 degrees.

Re:I don't trust Wolfram Alpha (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837052)

The output rounds the interior angles to an integer, so it displays 68deg instead of 67.5deg. Below the individual interior angles it states the sum of the interior angles is 180deg.

Re:I don't trust Wolfram Alpha (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837158)

I don't use Wolfram, but, come on. The interior angle sum is listed correctly directly beneath the very numbers you totaled.

Also: Each degree is displayed using only 2 significant digits. 181 has 3 significant digits (1.81e2). thus when you added you forgot to round the the solution to the proper number of significant digits (two), giving 1.8e2 or 180 degrees.

Re:I don't trust Wolfram Alpha (1)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837382)

How did you get through school without learning about significant digits?

Re:I don't trust Wolfram Alpha (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837636)

When I was in school the term "significant digits" certainly was not taught ...

Does it really make sense in non computer science at all?

Re:I don't trust Wolfram Alpha (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837820)

Um, yes, absolutely. In fact, significant digits are more applicable in physical science than computer science. Sig figs exist to help us estimate the precision of a measurement, and carry that precision through a calculation. Students should be familiar with sig figs around the time they're asked to calculate simple quantities like density. That's around middle school.

In comp sci, I'm not sure when you'd want to use sig figs. Digital data is usually absolutely precise. There's no error when measuring the length of a string for instance. The only time you need to get into sig figs is if you're digitizing an analog data source. That's not something every programmer needs to do.

Re:I don't trust Wolfram Alpha (1)

femtobyte (710429) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837848)

Abso-fucking-lutely it does.

The use of significant figures is critical throughout all the sciences, engineering, and manufacturing. The figures in a number convey important information about how well a quantity is known/measured, or how precisely a specification needs to be met. Go to a machinist and ask for a 1.00 inch cut of bar stock, and he'll say "no problem" and slice you off a piece on the band saw. Tell the machinist you need a 1.00000000 inch segment, and he'll either give you a seven-figure price quote with a six month lead time, or possibly just break out in laughter.

If you didn't learn about this in school, it's a reflection on the sorry state of the education system rather than the actual importance of the topic.

What's the use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836668)

If fail to see how this could be useful?
Most PDF's I receive are printable versions of info which is also available online.
If they want to make use of interactive content, they usually include a URL, which makes pretty much sense to me.

Also, didn't Adobe include similar features in its Acrobat reader, which were later exploited by maleware-writers?

What's new here? (3, Interesting)

saforrest (184929) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836684)

All of Matematica, Maple, and MathCAD have had their own worksheet/document formats since the mid-90s at least. They have gone through many incarnations but I believe all of them now support embedding code, graphics, marked-up text, etc. Maple's Document format certainly does.

Exactly what is new about this, other than a new name and, well, further grist for Stephen Wolfram's publicity mill?

Is the idea simply to have a thin-client reader and offload most of the computation to remote servers? Because if so then that is the innovation, not some new document format.

Less user enablement is what we need (2)

FunkyELF (609131) | more than 2 years ago | (#36836882)

I can't stand the monstrosities they try to create using Word and Excel today... don't give them even more power... please

Re:Less user enablement is what we need (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837346)

the only people I know who used or are using Wolfram's products are/were scientists, students, and engineers. You know, the people who build things, discover things, or are in training to build or discover things. Enabling them isn't the worst we can do. Of course, I'm glad some of their needs can be met with open source now, but there's still some things that aren't yet possible with oss

Great - CDF is another attack vector to worry abo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36836886)

All we need is another file format that executes logic and sends information to entities outside of your computer by default.

Marketing drivel for nothing new... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837258)

Dynamic charting objects in virtually every web based language can handle this already. Other than fattening up their coffers a bit more, locking users into their own "proprietary" format, and gaining more marketshare... what exactly is the benefit of this? Other than for Wolfram that is, heh.

Nothing new done, no new goal (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837568)

The Computational Document Format (CDF) allows authors to embed interactive charts, diagrams and graphics into their documents, allowing readers to adjust variables to see how increasing a price affects profits, for example, or display different segments of a brain scan. Wolfram aims to make the format easy enough for non-programmers to use, based on the linguistic commands used in its search engine. '[Currently] anyone who can make an Excel macro should easily be able to make interactivity for CDF,'

HTML+JS, XAML+VB.NET, and (obviously) Excel+VBA already meet this standard. And are widely deployed. Why do we need CDF as currently implemented?

'Where I'd like to get is that anyone who can make an Excel chart can make interactivity in CDFs.'"

And I'd like a pet unicorn. The hardest part of the task "make interactivity" (at least, interactivity that works correctly, without which interactivity is useless) in modern high-level environments isn't syntax, its developing the analytical skills necessary to clearly define what you want out of the interactivity. Non-interactive charts are conceptually simpler than any interactive behavior and will always be easier to specify a simple non-interactive like than to define useful interaction.

Mathematica rules, CDF drools (2)

turtle graphics (1083489) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837770)

I'm a huge fan of Mathematica, and use it all the time for mathematical work. The manipulate command they're leveraging for the CDF is incredibly elegant and simple, as advertised. However, from the Wolfram CDF faq:

Can I remove the welcome screen, toolbar, or watermark logo I see when opening CDFs in CDF Player or viewing CDFs online with the web browser plugin?
The presence of Wolfram branding is part of the FreeCDF licensing terms...

They've got to be kidding if they expect anyone to make serious use of an 'open' format that requires a proprietary player with advertising all over it. Compare with PDF, which is not 'free' but at least seamlessly operates with, say LaTeX.

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"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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