CommonMark only wants to help

I’m sure many of you have heard of Markdown, which is a plain text format for writing structured documents. Developed in 2004, it is in wide use throughout the internet and has simple syntax:


h3. Traditional html title
Paragraphs are separated
by a blank line.
Let 2 spaces at the end of a line to do a  
line break
Text attributes *italic*,
**bold**, `monospace`.
A [link](

Shopping list:
* apples
* oranges
* pears
Numbered list:
1. apples
2. oranges
3. pears
The rain ---not the reign--- in Spain.

Markdown was created by John Gruber, and the “spec” (if you can call it that) is just the initial implementation, written in Perl. Many other implementations have spawned for various languages, and they all used this initial implementation as the spec, even though it is buggy and therefore incredibly ambiguous.


CommonMark is an effort by a group of people to create an unambiguous Markdown spec.

We propose a standard, unambiguous syntax specification for Markdown, along with a suite of comprehensive tests to validate Markdown implementations against this specification. We believe this is necessary, even essential, for the future of Markdown.

Due to so many differing implementations and the wide usage throughout the internet, it’s impossible to know whether or not the Markdown you write on Reddit will work in a on Github. The goal of CommonMark is to make sure that it will.

I think it’s a great cause, and as I said in the coding horror discussion, nothing but good things can come out of this. Another member, however, reminded me of why I was commenting on that discussion in the first place:

Well, with the exception of this little spat, of course.

Oh yes, this little spat. The spat between the CommonMark team and John Gruber. Apparently John is not on board with the standardization of Markdown and has ignored requests to be on the team. CommonMark was started 2 years ago and originally requested that John join the project. They heard nothing from John for 2 years, until they announced the project with it’s original name of Standard Markdown. Apparently John thought the name was infuriating and insisted that it be changed. It is now known as CommonMark.

John appears to be 100% against this project and the standardization of Markdown.


The intent behind CommonMark is to make Markdown more consistent and make the internet as a whole a better place. This is being done because Markdown is highly regarded throughout the industry. It’s being done because people love Markdown and want to see it live long after many projects die.

Markdown has been neglected ever since shortly after it’s initial release. The last version, 1.0.1, was released on December 17, 2004. 10 freaking years ago. It’s fine to no longer have any interest in maintaining a project, but to not let people continue it’s development is beyond me.

I would love to hear from John on the reasoning behind his lack of interest in CommonMark. He may very well have good reasons and can set the record straight. But for now, I just don’t get it.