Universal syntax for Markdown

Michel Fortin michel.fortin at michelf.com
Wed Aug 10 22:09:23 EDT 2011

Le 2011-08-10 à 21:40, Fletcher T. Penney a écrit :

> All this said, however, I think an important consideration for this discussion is:



> What benefit do the authors of current Markdown variants gain from the effort required to agree on a standard?



> Being realistic, I'm pretty busy with my day job. I'm even busier throwing in maintaining MMD and now trying to release a new application. I've put in countless hours on a project that has in total provided me with the equivalent of a weekend or two working at my day job in donations from the generosity from those who have themselves saved countless hours of their own time. Clearly I'm not doing this for the money. My guess is that other Markdown authors aren't doing it for the money either.


> I think we all do it because we care. We see the beauty and utility in this approach to writing, whether it be for the web (Markdown) or other document formats (MultiMarkdown). For progress to be made on an official "next version" of Markdown, it's going to take a cause that offers some benefit to those of us who have worked so hard during the past few years to contribute our own changes and additions.

I can relate to this. Let me quote something I wrote on my blog in back in 2009:

> As for John no longer maintaining Markdown, both the tool or the language, I don’t really complain. I’m really glad he published Markdown instead of keeping it for himself. I believe he initially thought it’d bring him a small revenue stream (given the initial license which was GPL+commercial), but that probably never concretized, nor it did for me. I think maintaining Markdown as a standard, coherent language is an unsustainable project. That’s really unfortunate, because everyone uses it.


I see an interesting parallel between the HTML5 effort and the Markdown standardization effort. Just like HTML a few years ago, Markdown needs some leadership who can clarify obscure parts of the syntax and the various implementation-specific features.

But there is a fundamental difference between Markdown and HTML: some profitable browser makers cooperated and thus funded the HTML5 effort, but no one is making a profit maintaing its own Markdown implementation (quite the contrary in fact). So who will fund that effort for Markdown?

That question is very important. There's a significant investment in time required from many implementors for standardization to work, and given the law of diminishing returns (the deeper you dig in the incompatibilities to fix the less impact you make) there's little to gain for the implementors themselves compared to the work required.

Standardizing Markdown is a noble goal but I don't think it'll happen in the current climate where there's almost nothing to gain for the implementors by doing so.

Michel Fortin
michel.fortin at michelf.com

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