Markdown Classic

September 04, 2014 by Gabe | [mmd] |

There's a new site for Markdown enthusiasts, and it's really too bad about their implementation. I don't mean their test suite or their documentation. Those look outstanding. The bravado is a little out of whack.

Standard Markdown appears to have two major goals:

  1. To provide a specification for various aspects of the original Markdown
  2. To poke a thumb in the eye of the Markdown creator John Gruber for ignoring the greatness of Jeff Atwood

I actually think the first goal is admirable and very well executed. But it's tainted by being chained, purposefully, to the original Markdown name using a word that conveys a very specific meaning. "Standard" has a connotation that I refuse to believe was overlooked by a supremely smart person.1

Unfortunately, I think the hubris of Jeff Atwood has done significant harm to what should have been a benevolent gift to nerds everywhere. By attempting to usurp canonical Markdown, I believe some (maybe many) will avoid association with it. It's a shame, really. At the time of this writing, the most active comment thread is purely dedicated to the naming of the project. What a waste.

Maybe I'm being simple minded here. I certainly don't know the minds of those involved. Given that the original license for Markdown expressly states that the name Markdown should not be used without consent, it feels like this move by Atwood and Co. was a challenge.2 They could have suggested a "flavor" of Markdown or a test kit or even their own specification with a new name. To attempt to replace some of the Markdown guidelines and call it "Standard" was juvenile.4 It's all just supposition because Atwood is so ambiguous about why he chose the name "Standard Markdown". I'd suggest a new project called "Standard Markdown Pro" if I cared more about curating a project name than collaborating on a specification.3

UPDATE (Already): It's now called "Common Markdown". The explanation does not seem to fit the sarcastic and childish comments posted on Twitter or in the project comments, but hey, the name is coming along nicely. Funny thing is that I think "Standard Flavor Markdown" was much less offensive and a safer bet.


  1. I only know Jeff Atwood and his collaborators through their various contributions to Internet projects. I'm extrapolating when I assume they are all generally smart. It's an easy assumption. 

  2. Jeff's own comment on the matter is rather childish 

  3. I actually don't care all that much about whether there is a spec for Markdown. I use various aspects of the language all day every day. I use it on every computer I touch. That's a statement against Jeff Atwood's express motivation. I've never once cared about the project's stewardship. I care that it is not complicated and it's easy to read. 

  4. Critic Markup was a specific attempt to not interfere with any interpretations of Markdown or MultiMarkdown or Github flavored Markdown. It was also pretty easy to come up with a name that didn't include the word Markdown.