Markdown is a lightweight markup language with plain text formatting syntax. It is designed so that it can be converted to HTML and many other formats using a tool by the same name. Markdown is often used to format readme files, for writing messages in online discussion forums, and to create rich text using a plain text editor. As the initial description of Markdown contained ambiguities and unanswered questions, many implementations and extensions of Markdown appeared over the years to answer these issues.
|Internet media type||
|Uniform Type Identifier (UTI)||
|Developed by||John Gruber|
|Initial release||March 19, 2004 |
(December 17, 2004 )
|Type of format||Markup language|
|Extended to||MultiMarkdown, Markdown Extra, CommonMark|
John Gruber created the Markdown language in 2004 in collaboration with Aaron Swartz on the syntax, with the goal of enabling people "to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, and optionally convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML)".
The key design goal is readability – that the language be readable as-is, without looking like it has been marked up with tags or formatting instructions, unlike text formatted with a markup language, such as Rich Text Format (RTF) or HTML, which have obvious tags and formatting instructions. To this end, its main inspiration is the existing conventions for marking up plain text in email, though it also draws from earlier markup languages, notably setext, Textile, and reStructuredText.
Gruber wrote a Perl script,
Markdown.pl, which converts marked-up text input to valid, well-formed XHTML or HTML and replaces left-pointing angle brackets '
<' and ampersands '
&' with their corresponding character entity references. It can be used as a standalone script, as a plugin for Blosxom or Movable Type, or as a text filter for BBEdit.
Markdown has since been re-implemented by others as a Perl module available on CPAN (
Text::Markdown), and in a variety of other programming languages. It is distributed under a BSD-style license and is included with, or available as a plugin for, several content-management systems.
There is no clearly defined Markdown standard, apart from the original writeup and implementation by John Gruber, which some consider abandonware. This has led to fragmentation as different vendors write their own variants of the language to correct flaws or add missing features.
A number of other lightweight markup languages extend Markdown by adding features (such as tables, footnotes, definition lists, and Markdown inside HTML blocks) not available in the original Markdown syntax. Among these are Markdown Extra, MultiMarkdown, and the Pandoc Markdown extension.
The original Markdown implementation interprets constructs like
my_long_variable as a request to emphasize "long". Many users found this confusing, so many later implementations such as PHP Markdown and Python Markdown do not implement middle word emphasis with underscores.
Babelmark2 is a tool available to "[compare] the output of various implementations" to "promote discussion of how and whether certain vague aspects of the markdown spec should be clarified." Gruber has argued that complete standardisation would be mistaken: "Different sites (and people) have different needs. No one syntax would make all happy."
In March 2016 RFC 7763 and RFC 7764 were published. RFC 7763 introduced MIME type
text/markdown with the original variant. RFC 7764 discusses and registered the variants MultiMarkdown, GFM, Pandoc, CommonMark, and Markdown Extra among others.
From 2012, a group of people including Jeff Atwood launched what Atwood characterized as a standardization effort. A community website now aims to "document various tools and resources available to document authors and developers, as well as implementors of the various markdown implementations". In September 2014, Gruber objected to the usage of "Markdown" in the name of this effort and it was rebranded as a new dialect named CommonMark. CommonMark.org published several versions of a specification, reference implementation, and test suite, and "[plans] to announce a finalized 1.0 spec and test suite in 2017."
In 2017 GitHub released a formal specification of their GitHub Flavored Markdown that is based on CommonMark. It follows the CommonMark specification exactly except for tables, strikethrough, autolinks and task lists, which the GitHub spec has added as extensions.
Markdown Extra is a lightweight markup language based on Markdown implemented in PHP (originally), Python and Ruby. It adds features not available with plain Markdown syntax. Markdown Extra is supported in content management systems, for example Drupal, TYPO3 and MediaWiki.
It adds the following features to Markdown:
|Text using Markdown syntax||Corresponding HTML produced by a Markdown processor||Text viewed in a browser|
# Heading ## Sub-heading ### Another deeper heading Paragraphs are separated by a blank line. Two spaces at the end of a line leave a line break. Text attributes _italic_, *italic*, __bold__, **bold**, `monospace`. Horizontal rule: --- Bullet list: * apples * oranges * pears Numbered list: 1. apples 2. oranges 3. pears A [link](http://example.com).
<h1>Heading</h1> <h2>Sub-heading</h2> <h3>Another deeper heading</h3> <p>Paragraphs are separated by a blank line.</p> <p>Two spaces at the end of a line leave a<br /> line break.</p> <p>Text attributes <em>italic</em>, <em>italic</em>, <strong>bold</strong>, <strong>bold</strong>, <code>monospace</code>.</p> <p>Horizontal rule:</p> <hr /> <p>Bullet list:</p> <ul> <li>apples</li> <li>oranges</li> <li>pears</li> </ul> <p>Numbered list:</p> <ol> <li>apples</li> <li>oranges</li> <li>pears</li> </ol> <p>A <a href="http://example.com">link</a>.</p>
Paragraphs are separated by a blank line.
Two spaces at the end of a line leave a
Text attributes italic, italic, bold, bold,
Implementations of Markdown are available for over a dozen programming languages; in addition, many platforms and frameworks support Markdown. For example, Markdown plugins exist for every major blogging platform.
While Markdown is a minimal markup language and is easily read and edited with a normal text editor, there are specially designed editors that preview the files with styles, which are available for all major platforms. Many general purpose text and code editors have syntax highlighting plugins for Markdown built into them or available as optional download. Editors may feature a side-by-side preview window or render the code directly in a WYSIWYG fashion.
- The sourcecode documentation generator Doxygen supports Markdown with extra features.
- RStudio, an IDE for R provides a C++ wrapper function for a markdown variant called sundown.
- GitHub Flavored Markdown (GFM) treats newlines in paragraph-like content as real line breaks, ignores underscores in words, and adds syntax highlighting, task lists, and tables.
- Discount - a C implementation.
- MarkAPL is a converter written in Dyalog APL. It supports fenced blocks, smart typography, link references, and special attributes, and can generate a table of contents.
- PHP Markdown - a library package that includes the PHP Markdown parser and its sibling PHP Markdown Extra with additional features.
- Markdig - A .NET library which follows the CommonMark specifications, and has a large collection of extensions with the ability for the user to create their own.
- Daring Fireball Statement by creator John Gruber
- RFC 7763 - The text/markdown Media Type
- "Markdown". Aaron Swartz: The Weblog. 2004-03-19.
- "Daring Fireball: Markdown". Archived from the original on 2004-04-02. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
- Markdown 1.0.1 readme source code "Daring Fireball – Markdown". 2004-12-17. Archived from the original on 2004-04-02.
- RFC7764 – Guidance on Markdown: Design Philosophies, Stability Strategies, and Select Registrations
- "Markdown: License". Daring Fireball. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
- "Markdown". 2013-12-04. Archived from the original on 2004-04-02.
- Markdown Syntax "Daring Fireball – Markdown – Syntax". 2013-06-13.
Readability, however, is emphasized above all else. A Markdown-formatted document should be publishable as-is, as plain text, without looking like it’s been marked up with tags or formatting instructions. While Markdown’s syntax has been influenced by several existing text-to-HTML filters — including Setext, atx, Textile, reStructuredText, Grutatext, and EtText — the single biggest source of inspiration for Markdown’s syntax is the format of plain text email.
- "Markdown 2.6.6". python.org. 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2016-07-06.
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- Gruber, John. "Twitter post". Retrieved 2014-09-06.
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- "Standard Markdown Becomes Common Markdown then CommonMark". InfoQ. Retrieved 2014-10-07.
- "CommonMark". Retrieved 16 Mar 2017.
The current version of the CommonMark spec is complete, and quite robust after a year of public feedback … but not quite final. With your help, we plan to announce a finalized 1.0 spec and test suite in 2017.
- "A formal spec for GitHub Flavored Markdown". GitHub Engineering. Retrieved 16 Mar 2017.
- Markdown editor for BUEditor
- Markdown for TYPO3
- MarkdownExtraParser for MediaWiki
- PHP Markdown Extra - Tables
- "W3C Community Page of Markdown Implementations". W3C Markdown Wiki. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
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- "Writing on GitHub". help.github.com. GitHub, Inc. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
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- "Discount - a C implementation of the Markdown markup language". Retrieved 2014-11-01.
- David Parsons (2016-05-28). "DISCOUNT". GitHub. Retrieved 2016-07-07.
- "Markdown converter written in Dyalog APL.".
- "PHP Markdown". Retrieved 2016-03-01.