Standard Markdown is now Common Markdown

Just call it Common Markup and be done with it.

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Haha. That’s weak, Jeff. I regularly run with email off, but that doesn’t mean I’ve got Twitter closed as well.

@BatmanAoD: I didn’t say it will never the Markdown. But you know? It never will be. Markdown is defined by Gruber. This could become more popular than Markdown, and I never said otherwise.

But right now, it’s not common. Nobody’s using it. And it can never be standard, because Gruber’s will always be the standard. And absolutely both of those imply a replacement.

Seriously… a trademark is only a trademark if 1) it is asserted, and 2) it is policed. You have to take people to task when they misuse your mark, or you lose it. Gruber never asserted the mark as far as I can tell. There was a weak attempt to restrict the use of the name in derivative works from the source code, but… this is NOT a derivative work from his source code. So… there is no mark.

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I appreciate the work that both Jeff Atwood and John Gruber do on the internet. I’m pretty sure that this dispute is causing ill will on both sides and it would be useful for all involved to resolve this amicably

I’ve read through some of the comments here and the quality of the discussion disappoints me. There are many people here acting as if Gruber has abandoned his trademark or never had a trademark. IANAL but this seems ill-informed. A trademark does not need to be registered to be afforded protection, although a registered trademark has more protection. Also, if there is talk of “abandoning trademarks” this has gone beyond a friendly dispute into something much more serious.

I think the use of “Common Markdown” and “Standard Markdown” miss the point entirely here. I wouldn’t go and create a website called “Standard Coding Horror” or “Common Daring Fireball”, so why should “Common Markdown” be acceptable?


What I find infuriating is the gross unprofessionalism and rudeness of that podcast, and John Gruber’s overall attitude that is the opposite of that of the free software movement. Aaron Swartz, the co-creator of Markdown, is spinning in his grave. If it were up to me, I would call it something like JGIADH.

Ego reasons, not legal reasons.

Consider the C language. There was a de facto standard per K&R and the Bell Labs implementation, with numerous later implementations. The language was “standardized”, but the standard mandated many things that weren’t in any of the existing implementations and required behavior incompatible with the existing implementations (notably in the preprocessor). The result was Standard C, which preceded any implementation of it.

How ironic that you complain about the quality of the discussion here and offer something of such low quality … so appallingly intellectually dishonest.

Meanwhile, the Markdown Wikipedia page aptly calls Gruber’s contribution “abandonware”. That page ought to be updated to reflect these late developments.


Priceless. Gruber’s lack of involvement and demands should both equally be ignored. That said, I’ve got to give great kudos to this worthy project, in spite of the Gruber-less-ness (actually, that is probably a better thing). Some more flavors:


This reminds me of the SSH trademark case:

Since he have only complained about your project, then you are free to use Markdown.

Or change it to MarkedDown.

Redirect StandardMarkDown to your new site. Whatever you do he will complain, and are never satisfied.

CommonMark still recommends the .md file extension.

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Yes, I think you got it right here. I think Gruber got upset because they are assuming their flavor is somehow better, even better than his own, while he’s not even a collaborator of the new flavor.

Maybe it’s really just a matter of name. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Basic Markdown
  2. Minimal Markdown
  3. Shareable Markdown

Hope you like one of them, and Gruber approves.

I don’t see how Gruber’s implementation call be considered the standard, seeing how it’s utterly broken. It goes batshit as soon as you encounter an edge case.

Everyone who uses markdown has had to reimplement it. Hence they’re not bound by Gruber’s license on Furthermore, “foo Markdown” or whatever has been a common form to describe every implementation, and Gruber has never said anything before today. You have to protect a trademark in order to hold it, and Gruber didn’t do that for 10 years. You also have to actively exploit it, and Gruber has neglected to do anything with it for 7 years. Basically, Gruber’s licensing and trademark have about as much legal worth as a roll of toilet paper today.

Make no mistake, Jeff is only ceding on this out of courteousness -and Gruber is still a huge man-child who got lucky that no one called his bluff about having any authority over the ‘Common’ project.


The license states…

Neither the name “Markdown” nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

Notice that it doesn’t state that you cannot use “MD”. That seems like an easy way to resolve this. Why not just use “Standard MD” or “STMD”? Folks already know what “MD” stands for, and we can all continue to call it what it is, Markdown. However, the term that you use in the title, domain, and specs; can just be “[Whatever] MD” to prevent a licensing issue.

Love the work you’ve done here! So thrilled to see a standard established. It is MUCH needed, and I just want to offer a big thank you to Jeff Atwood and company.

@ John Gruber, please Standdown! We love your work. This will take it even further. It’s a good thing for everyone IMO. You’ll still go down as the guy who invented Markdown.

Given John Gruber’s response, I hope Markdown dies and become completely replaced by CommonMark. If you can’t maintain a half-complete project of yours that becomes extremely popular, either accept help or give it up to someone who can. He doesn’t deserve an apology.

What an !@@#$%^.


John created something simple and powerful, and he named it, and licensed it. Everyone else is disregarding the license and re-licensing derivatives of his work as enhancements (not so simple anymore!), and it got so bad, that you’re now trying to create a standard from it, so that it will once again be simple and powerful.

This wasn’t much of an apology. You don’t own, control, or have anything to do with Markdown, but you sure are acting like it.

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I recommend the name “the Gruber language”.

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Yes, he has.

Only if you see the effort as usurping Gruber’s claim to Markdown. Which is what seems to be the case. But Gruber hasn’t taken issue with using the same syntax and defining rules, his only stipulation was that you can’t claim to have the definitive Markdown.

Because he’s against the effort, and against Atwood specifically.

If Atwood’s goal is to usurp the Markdown name and claim ownership, then yes.

The license is irrelevant, as his copyrighted materials aren’t being used.

Wrong. If you use a mark that can cause confusion with another Trademark (particularly in the same area), then it is 100% relevant. Given your responses, it would seem you are not well acquainted with how trademarks & copyrights work.

There is no trademark.

Wrong. There is a trademark. Again, please consider learning more about trademark law. You don’t have to be a lawyer to grasp the basic understand. It does not have to be a registered trademark to qualify for protections.

Gruber has been a complete ass about it. This project could have contributed to his legacy, but now he will only be remembered for being a dick.

Your anger at Gruber is irrelevant to the facts. Gruber is allowed to be a dick. Hell, he has had that reputation among some for many years. Doesn’t change the fact that he controls the ‘Markdown’ name.

And another one. No, that is absurd, completely wrong, baseless, contrary to common longstanding practice, and suggests that you have no understanding of what it means to be a derivative work. Using the name is completely orthogonal.

You want to claim it is not a derivative work, but should somehow have the rights to the name. Yeah. I think I know who doesn’t have an understanding of how things work.

Ultimately your sense of entitlement to the name is no longer relevant. They’ve renamed it to CommonMark.

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It would seem the one who does’t understand trademark law is you. You seem unable to understand that use of it in a commercial sense (including a ‘free’ product) automatically grants you a trademark. And yes, registering it gets you additional protections, but registering is not required.

I don’t know who specifically owns the Python trademark or what restrictions are set. You see just because somebody says it’s OK to do something with one ‘mark’ does not mean that translate to all ‘marks’.

Nice. We’ve resorted to personal insults now, although you’ve been badgering anyone that doesn’t subscribe to your sense of entitlement. My claim of your entitlement is that you seem to think the open source community (which I assume you’re steeped up to your neck in based on your commentary) was somehow entitled to use the ‘Markdown’ mark however you saw fit. Your arguments make that very clear. Your upset that Gruber has the trademark “Markdown” and hasn’t done anything with it. Tough. That’s how the world works sometimes.

I know you’re not Atwood, which is why I used “They” in my second sentence. Pronouns are useful. I would not have used “they” if I though you and Atwood were the same person. Silly English with its clarity.

I’m happy to hear you’re done with me. You’ve settled into personal insults and self-righteousness with very little understanding of trademark law. Have fun.

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I’m not sure what’s going on here - either you are deliberately avoiding my actual point which is a little intellectually dishonest, or I’m simply not making my point clear enough.

I’l assume it’s me not being clear and so please accept my apologies for that.

Let me try again. You are using your guess (and, hey - it’s not a bad guess) as to Gruber’s motives for the events that have transpired. You are ascribing motivation, but my point is much more simple than that.

The licence agreement is pretty clear cut about requiring permission in writing to use the Markdown name. As this project didn’t get that permission in advance, Gruber is within his rights to allow or disallow the use of the name. His motivations are now irrelevant. The facts are the salient point now.

If this project had been created with a name that satisfies the requirement, or if permission had been attained, and all this still happened, you would have grounds for speculating about Gruber and his personality and his stewardship of Markdown. However that’s not how it happened. The mistake is with this project for that, not with Gruber.

It seems that the main point that is being missed by those in the “pro-Attwood” camp (if you’ll excuse that awful term I just coined) is that one may speculate as to the motivations about the setting of the Markdown name ‘trap’ by Gruber, but it is undeniable that it was this project that stepped into it.

It feels like it’s time for you to step back from this whole argument. Your replies are turning into long and rambling rants that involve a lot of anger and name-calling. It is not constructive.

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Yes, please everyone take it down a notch. No need for personal attacks. See as civility is enforced here.

(Also, use the flag button to flag anything that is over the line. You will need trust level 1 to do that though, which implies you have read a bit more here than just a few posts in one or two topics.)

We beg to differ, as we represent millions of users on GitHub, Reddit, Stack Overflow, and Discourse who use Markdown daily. Does that mean we own Markdown? Of course not. However, we believe it does mean that we have the right to expect reasonable stewardship of an open source project that our sites and users rely on.