On The Future of Markdown

October 28, 2012

I love Markdown. I write this blog in it and I use it all over the web, especially on GitHub and Stack Overflow.

This is why I was really excited to see Jeff Atwood propose a new plan for a Markdown specification. Currently, Markdown is defined by John Gruber’s original implementation. Unsurprisingly, people around the internet have developed their own “flavours” of Markdown to suit their own, specific needs.

Jeff Atwood wants to unify these flavours under one name with one spec and a test suite for writing your own Markdown interpreter. And he’s seeking the blessing of Markdown’s creator, John Gruber.

Unfortunately, John Gruber has been less than receptive towards the plan.

What I find interesting about all this is that, until now, I didn’t really have a problem with Gruber having complete control over Markdown. I mean, it’d be unlikely that he would make a change that would adversely effect my ability to access (and write) things like this blog, right?

It’s now apparent that Gruber is willing to get Markdown stagnate as the Internet moves on.


Famously, or perhaps infamously, John Siracusa has eschewed Markdown in favour of HTML for this exact reason: since there is a spec for hTML, he is assured that his writing will always be accessible and access to it is not beholden to the markup syntax du jour.

I can’t say that I’m abandoning Markdown, but I definitely have doubts about its future (or more to the point, it’s lack of a one). I’m very excited about Jeff Atwood’s project and I hope that the rest of the Internet isn’t content to let Markdown remain Gruber’s personal fiefdom.

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