Markdown is a lightweight markup language for creating formatted text using a plain-text editor. John Gruber and Aaron Swartz created Markdown in 2004 as a markup language that is appealing to human readers in its source code form. Markdown is widely used in blogging, instant messaging, online forums, collaborative software, documentation pages, and readme files.
|Internet media type|
|Uniform Type Identifier (UTI)|
|Developed by||John Gruber and Aaron Swartz|
|Initial release||March 19, 2004|
(December 17, 2004)
|Type of format||Markup language|
|Extended to||pandoc, MultiMarkdown, Markdown Extra, CommonMark, RMarkdown|
Since the initial description of Markdown contained ambiguities and unanswered questions, the implementations that appeared over the years have subtle differences and many come with syntax extensions.
In 2002 Aaron Swartz created atx, "the true structured text format". Swartz and John Gruber then worked together to create the Markdown language in 2004, with the goal of enabling people "to write using an easy-to-read and easy-to-write plain text format, optionally convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML)".
Its 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 angle brackets '
>' and ampersands '
&' with their corresponding character entity references. It can take the role of a standalone script, a plugin for Blosxom or a Movable Type, or of a text filter for BBEdit.
Markdown has been characterised by an informal specification and a reference implementation for conversion to HTML. Over time, many Markdown implementations have appeared. People developed these mostly driven by the need for additional features on top of the base syntax—such as tables, footnotes, definition lists (technically HTML description lists), and Markdown inside HTML blocks. The behavior of some of these diverges from the reference implementation. At the same time, a number of ambiguities in the informal specification have attracted attention. These issues spurred the creation of tools such as Babelmark to compare the output of various implementations, and an effort by some developers of Markdown parsers for standardisation. However, Gruber has argued that complete standardization would be a mistake: "Different sites (and people) have different needs. No one syntax would make all happy."
In March 2016 two relevant informational Internet RFCs were published:
- RFC 7763 introduced MIME type
text/markdownwith the original variant.
- RFC 7764 discussed and registered the variants MultiMarkdown, GitHub Flavored Markdown (GFM), Pandoc, CommonMark, and Markdown Extra among others.
|Internet media type|
|Uniform Type Identifier (UTI)||uncertain|
|Developed by||John MacFarlane, open source|
|Initial release||October 25, 2014|
(April 6, 2019)
|Type of format||Markup language|
|Extended to||GitHub Flavored Markdown|
From 2012, a group of people, including Jeff Atwood and John MacFarlane, launched what Atwood characterised as a standardisation 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, test suite, and "[plans] to announce a finalized 1.0 spec and test suite in 2019." No 1.0 spec has since been released as major issues still remain unsolved. Nonetheless, the following sites and projects have adopted CommonMark: Discourse, GitHub, GitLab, Reddit, Qt, Stack Exchange (Stack Overflow), and Swift.
GitHub Flavored MarkdownEdit
GitHub had been using its own variant of Markdown since as early as 2009, adding support for additional formatting such as tables and nesting block content inside list elements, as well as GitHub-specific features such as auto-linking references to commits, issues, usernames, etc. In 2017, GitHub released a formal specification of their GitHub Flavored Markdown (GFM) that is based on CommonMark. It is a strict superset of CommonMark, following its specification exactly except for tables, strikethrough, autolinks and task lists, which GFM adds as extensions. GitHub also changed the parser used on their sites accordingly, which required that some documents be changed. For instance, GFM now requires that the hash symbol that creates a heading be separated from the heading text by a space character.
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 some content management systems such as, for example, Drupal and TYPO3.
Markdown Extra 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 ----------- Paragraphs are separated by a blank line. Two spaces at the end of a line produce a line break.
<h1>Heading</h1> <h2>Sub-heading</h2> <p>Paragraphs are separated by a blank line.</p> <p>Two spaces at the end of a line<br /> produce a line break.</p>
Paragraphs are separated by a blank line.
Two spaces at the end of a line
Text attributes _italic_, **bold**, `monospace`. Some implementations may use *single-asterisks* for italic text. Horizontal rule: --- Strikethrough: ~~strikethrough~~
<p>Text attributes <em>italic</em>, <strong>bold</strong>, <code>monospace</code>. Some implementations may use <i>single-asterisks</i> for italic text.</p> <p>Horizontal rule:</p> <hr /> <p>Strikethrough:</p> <strike>strikethrough</strike>
|Text attributes italic,
Bullet list: * apples * oranges * pears Numbered list: 1. lather 2. rinse 3. repeat
<p>Bullet list:</p> <ul> <li>apples</li> <li>oranges</li> <li>pears</li> </ul> <p>Numbered list:</p> <ol> <li>lather</li> <li>rinse</li> <li>repeat</li> </ol>
An [example](http://example.com). ![Image](Icon-pictures.png "icon") > Markdown uses email-style > characters for blockquoting. > Multiple paragraphs need to be prepended individually. Basic inline <abbr title="Hypertext Markup Language">HTML</abbr> may be supported.
<p>An <a href="http://example.com">example</a>.</p> <p><img alt="Image" title="icon" src="Icon-pictures.png" /></p> <blockquote> <p>Markdown uses email-style characters for blockquoting. Multiple paragraphs need to be prepended individually.</p> </blockquote> <p>Basic inline <abbr title="Hypertext Markup Language">HTML</abbr> may be supported.</p>
Basic inline HTML may be supported.
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 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.
- JotterPad – an online WYSIWYG editor that supports Markdown and fountain
- Doxygen – a source code documentation generator which supports Markdown with extra features
- RStudio – an IDE for R. It provides a C++ wrapper function for a markdown variant called sundown
- GitHub Flavored Markdown (GFM) ignores underscores in words, and adds syntax highlighting, task lists, and tables
- "RFC 7763 – The text/markdown Media Type".
- Swartz, Aaron (2004-03-19). "Markdown". Aaron Swartz: The Weblog.
- Gruber, John. "Markdown". Daring Fireball. 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".
- "RMarkdown Reference site".
- "Markdown: License". Daring Fireball. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
- Daring Fireball statement by creator John Gruber
- 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.
- "Daring Fireball: Introducing Markdown". daringfireball.net. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
- "Markdown Syntax Documentation". Daring Fireball.
- "GitHub Flavored Markdown Spec – Why is a spec needed?". github.github.com.
- "Babelmark 2 – Compare markdown implementations". Johnmacfarlane.net. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
- "Babelmark 3 – Compare Markdown Implementations". github.io. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
- "Babelmark 2 – FAQ". Johnmacfarlane.net. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
- Gruber, John [@gruber] (4 September 2014). "@tobie @espadrine @comex @wycats Because different sites (and people) have different needs. No one syntax would make all happy" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Markdown Variants". IANA. 2016-03-28. Retrieved 2016-07-06.
- "UTI of a CommonMark document".
- "CommonMark specification".
- Atwood, Jeff (2012-10-25). "The Future of Markdown". CodingHorror.com. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
- "Markdown Community Page". GitHub. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
- "Standard Markdown is now Common Markdown". Jeff Atwood. Retrieved 2014-10-07.
- "Standard Markdown Becomes Common Markdown then CommonMark". InfoQ. Retrieved 2014-10-07.
- "CommonMark". Retrieved 20 Jun 2018.
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 2019.
- "Issues we MUST resolve before 1.0 release [6 remaining]". CommonMark Discussion. 2015-07-26. Retrieved 2020-10-02.
- "GitHub Flavored Markdown Spec". GitHub. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
- "Reddit markdown primer. Or, how do you do all that fancy formatting in your comments, anyway?". Reddit.com. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
- "Markdown Editing Help". StackOverflow.com. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
- "SourceForge: Markdown Syntax Guide". SourceForge.net. Retrieved 2013-05-10.
- "Markdown Syntax Documentation". daringfireball.net.
- "Basic Syntax | Markdown Guide". www.markdownguide.org.
- Tom Preston-Werner. "GitHub Flavored Markdown Examples". GitHub. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
- "A formal spec for GitHub Flavored Markdown". GitHub Engineering. Retrieved 16 Mar 2017.
- Fortin, Michel (2018). "PHP Markdown Extra". Michel Fortin website. Retrieved 2018-12-26.
- "Markdown editor for BUEditor". 4 December 2008.
- "Markdown for TYPO3 (markdown_content)". extensions.typo3.org.
- "PHP Markdown Extra". Michel Fortin.
- "W3C Community Page of Markdown Implementations". W3C Markdown Wiki. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- "Markdown THrowdown – What happens when FOSS software gets corporate backing". Ars Technica. 2014-10-05.
- "Why You Need a WYSIWYG Editor When Writing in Markdown and Fountain". JotterPad Blog. 2020-11-17. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
- "Doxygen Manual: Markdown support".
- Allaire, J.J.; e.a. (2015-06-30). "Markdown.cpp". GitHub project RStudio. Retrieved 2016-07-07.
- "Writing on GitHub". help.github.com. GitHub, Inc. Retrieved 9 July 2014.