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Where is Markdown 2?

Markdown is a success! Every developer-focused web site that I frequent supports Markdown to enter content: Stack Overflow, GitHub, Reddit, you name it. I attribute Markdown’s success to its syntactic simplicity yet powerful expressiveness.

Markdown Interest on Google
  Trends for 2004 until now.
Development of interest on Markdown over the last seven years according to Google Trends.

But its wide adoption led to an unsatisfying situation with sixty something implementations, some of them deviating from John Gruber’s original Markdown draft with incompatible extensions. This is a serious problem. For example, I can hardly remember all the different ways of specifying code block languages or tables.

To bring the Markdown development back on track, Jeff Atwood called major implementors1 to write a unified spec. But except for causing a minor commotion in some blog posts and tweets, nothing really happened from his side. No spec, no follow-up post, nothing. Whatever his intentions were, he left the chance behind to use the initial momentum for developing a Markdown specification that could’ve succeeded all others.

But, not all hope is lost: For better or worse, a W3C working group formed to design a Markdown specification draft. Up to now, an impressive number of 400 mails were sent to the public mailing list. But reading closer, there is only slow progress and by now only a couple of basic Markdown elements are covered by the provisional specification. What I suspect is, that being unsupported by major Markdown players, the spec will meet its fate as Markdown implementation n+1.

  1. Although he forgot to address John MiacFarlane of Pandoc fame.

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