(Excerpt from "The MathML Handbook" by Pavi Sandhu)
A relation such as equality or inequality is expressed in content markup by using a relational content element as the first argument of an apply element. The apply element is appropriate for this purpose because you can think of a relational expression as the result of applying a function to a set of arguments to yield the Boolean values True or False.
Here is an example of an inequality:
x < y
<apply> <lt/> <ci>x</ci> <ci>y</ci> </apply>
In MathML 1.0, the same relation was expressed using the reln element, as shown below:
<reln> <lt/> <ci>x</ci> <ci>y</ci> </reln>
The reln element is still supported in MathML 2.0 for backward compatibility. However, its use is deprecated. Instead, MathML 2.0 specifies that relations be expressed using the apply element to reflect that each relational expression is equivalent to applying a Boolean function.
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