Universal syntax for Markdown

Alan J. Hogan alanhogan at gmail.com
Mon Aug 15 21:37:56 EDT 2011

I am seeing a lot of concern expressed for backwards compatibility. Thoughts below.

On Aug 13, 2011, at 7:14 PM, Waylan Limberg <waylan at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Aug 13, 2011, at 3:00 PM, John MacFarlane wrote:


>> Of course, going forward, implementors have to worry about backwards

>> compatibility. I don't want to make changes that are going to break

>> old pandoc documents.


> We have the same concern. A few extensions are rather old now and

> while other implementations have implemented a better syntax, we can't

> change ours because people using our library with the old

> implementation will now need to update countless numbers of documents.

On Aug 14, 2011, at 4:24 AM, Michel Fortin wrote:

> But standardizing even the most basic feature is likely break backward-compatibility for many people, so how can it be done?

First, let me say all of you have a most admirable dedication to your users, and I applaud it.

In my mind, the backwards-compatibility concern is not as big an issue as it might seem.


First let us consider two broad methods of moving forward toward a unified syntax.

1. People agree on better-defined syntax and update their libraries accordingly.

2. A rebranded effort, not called Markdown, but presented as its more-powerful, better-defined successor. New libraries, even if largely based on old, are released, under new names.

With option #1 your concern is undeniably valid and troubling.

With option #2 it is a much more surmountable problem, in my opinion.

Note I also assume that something like Markdownify (or Markdownify itself, forked or updated) will exist to convert HTML to Markdown’s successor.

Now instead of updating a Markdown library leading to broken documents, I am making a choice to replace the older Markdown library with its successor. And perhaps now it crosses my mind to see if the syntax is the same, and lo and behold, on the successor's website there is a section about said differences -- with a link to an automatic converter. One could even exist completely online, using the old library to output HTML and then using the Markdownify-type tool as the last step.

These Markdown-successor libraries could even theoretically include a converter tool (like sass, which includes a converter between .sass, .scss, and .less formats). Implementation possibility: Run the old library on the input, then convert the HTML to the newer format, perhaps even by calling out to the Markdownify-type tool internally. Solvable problem, theoretically nearly trivial, given the existence of a Markdownify type program hosted somewhere, perhaps with bandwidth funded by the hypothetical Kickstarter project some of us are considering.

FWIW: Markdownify was written in PHP by Milian Wolff, who I see has not posted here for a while.

Alan Hogan
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://six.pairlist.net/pipermail/markdown-discuss/attachments/20110815/554d8a48/attachment.html>

More information about the Markdown-Discuss mailing list