clarification of terms would be a good thing

Sean Leonard dev+ietf at
Fri Sep 26 01:46:39 EDT 2014

On 9/23/2014 1:02 PM, bowerbird via Markdown-Discuss wrote:
> fletcher said:
>>    this is NOT Markdown when you do this.
> thanks for your guidance on this, fletcher.
> today's world seems to be confused about
> what markdown _is_ and what it is _not._

Here's what I have come to understand.

(I used to be in the "Markdown is the community!" camp, but since 
speaking with Fletcher, I have become more convinced of his point of view.)

"Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown 
allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text 
format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).

Thus, “Markdown” is two things: (1) a plain text formatting syntax; and 
(2) a software tool, written in Perl, that converts the plain text 
formatting to HTML."

Source: <>

That is the definition that Gruber has proposed for the last 10 years. 
It works. That is the primary sense of "Markdown".

The *secondary* sense of Markdown includes:
a) Markdown content, i.e., writings that comply with the Markdown syntax
b) Markdown content stored in a discrete and obvious container, e.g., a 
file or a content management system [compare with "that's a JAR, that's 
a PDF, that's a JPEG, that's a GIF"]
c) software tools that interpret Markdown syntax [most of which, 
incidentally, are not written in Perl, see definition above]
d) syntaxes that are based on the Markdown syntax (possibly interpreted 
by a) ), but are extended or changed in various ways
e) the diverse uses beyond text-to-(X)HTML to which diverse users have 
put a) and b)

Think about HTML. What is HTML? The primary sense is HyperText Markup 
Language, i.e., the SGML-derived format created by Tim Berners-Lee (and 
Robert Cailliau). HTML5 is a kind of HTML--it is not the one true HTML. 
XHTML is also a kind of HTML. An instance of a document composed 
according (mostly) to the language is also called HTML. When you say "I 
wrote some HTML!" you didn't literally write out, or rewrite, a 
specification for the HyperText Markup Language. It is common for people 
to append the container, such as "I wrote an HTML file!" or "I wrote 
HTML on WordPress!", but contextually that information may be 
unnecessary. When you say "I'm going to write an e-Book in HTML!" most 
likely you are repurposing some parts of the (an) HTML specification for 
a new kind of use, which is no longer HTML in the primary sense, but is 
close enough that everybody gets it.



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