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2014-09-04

Standardizing (a flavor of) Markdown

Update 2014-09-05: Jeff Atwood renames “Standard Markdown” to “Common Markdown” and apologizes to John Gruber. Details: “Standard Markdown is now Common Markdown”.

On September 3, Jeff Atwood announced a new standardization effort for John Gruber’s Markdown: Standard Markdown.

It is amazing how ubiquitous Markdown has become and it’s great that there is now a standard for it. Highlights:

  • The working group comprises representatives from: GitHub, Reddit, Stack Exchange, the open source community.
  • There is a proper specification that also describes a parsing strategy. This should help tremendously with writing a parser that can handle all content that complies with the standard. Given all the incompatible Markdown dialects in existence, that is currently a very difficult task.
  • There are reference implementations in JavaScript and C and a validation test suite.
    • You can try out the reference implementation online.

Background:

A few more thoughts:

  • The use case “publishing” is currently a bit underrepresented in the working group. Members of the Ghost blogging platform and of Leanpub would be great additions.
  • Mid-term to long-term, I’d like a more extensive standard to build on this one: It should comprise the Asciidoc features that are currently missing from Markdown (but maybe in more of a formal syntax instead of something ASCII art-ish). Rationale: better support Markdown for publishing, especially books.

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