text/markdown effort in IETF (invite)

Jason Davies j.p.davies at ucl.ac.uk
Wed Jul 9 18:18:02 EDT 2014

While I don't disagree with these points, I don't think they are 
necessarily *the* point.

Markdown is -- sometime-- used as Markdown, by which I mean I read it 
raw and send it to people raw. But the vast majority of the time, it's a 
lightweight mark-up language and - most importantly - a transitional 
mode. It becomes something else (html, TeX, opml etc).

Its virtues are simplicity and adaptability. So, for instance, in 
Mailmate I can write in markdown and it will be interpreted into html 
rich text. But for that very reason, it doesn't implement numbered lists 
(the developer explained to me that this became problematic when you 
convert *back*, in a reply, which Mailmate has a good stab at.)

In other words, there are going to be reasons why someone might 
implement in differently for valid reasons (which you may or may not 
agree with). So you could say it's not true Markdown (well, it's not if 
you use Gruber's syntax). But its simplicity and growing popularity 
means that it's too tempting to use it: otherwise he would have to 
invent a parallel beta-code with a different syntax which is as 
frustrating as the way that different wikis use different mark-up  
(drives me nuts...I can never remember the different dialects).

So if you created a 'standard markdown', as HTML 5 did, you would also 
have a bunch of people who wouldn't implement it fully. HTML 5 was made 
mission critical by two things, it seems to me: 1) Microsoft's 
deliberate attempts to break HTML's universal rendering forced the 
community to unite and sort it out 2) the fact that massive commercial 
and social implications arose from websites not working properly. If IE 
had not been such a pain to code for, and the consequences of the minor 
variations were not great, you'd never have had HTML 5 -- there would 
not have been the will.

Markdown does not currently have that scenario. Its greatest asset is 
its relatively low-level specification and elegance. So, for instance, 
if you want to convert it to LaTeX or OPML, you can through 
multimarkdown. If your website, written in markdown, doesn't work 
properly, you just fix it because you have a standard to fix it against 
(thanks to 5).

So, without a strong impetus to enforce co-operation, If you created a 
new standard, you would *still* end up with one 'true' markdown and 
several variants which people would implement to suit their purposes -- 
which is precisely what you have now. There is a near-perfect 
specification, and there are variants.

There is not the urgency in this case: enforcement is therefore going to 
be a voluntary adherence to a single spec (or not). In other words, we 
are already wherever we are going to end up, with a few details changed.

. On 9 Jul 2014, at 20:06, Sean Leonard wrote:

> Some realities are apparent, at least to me:
> 1. Markdown is a real thing. It's not plain text and it's not 
> HTML--it's something different. (Heck, this list could be Markdown!)
> 2. People are using Markdown for real things of economic and social 
> value.
> 3. Markdown is different from other _lightweight markup languages_. 
> I.e., it's not reStructuredText, BBCode, javadocs, or Creole (wiki 
> markup). But unlike the aforementioned examples, there is no authority 
> that guides its development. (reStructuredText is a Python thing, for 
> example, so the Python people are in charge of it.)
> 4. Things that are called Markdown (MultiMarkdown, GitHub Flavored 
> Markdown, etc.) share more in common with each other than those in 
> #3--therefore these things are related.
> 5. People are storing and exchanging Markdown-as-Markdown between 
> systems. Not Markdown-as-plain-text, and not Markdown-as-HTML. Thus, 
> there is a need for standardized interchange.
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