What Exactly Is Markdown?

What Exactly Is Markdown?

Markup Vs Markdown

There is a 95% chance that you have already used Markdown probably if you are a blogger, developer or content creator.

You have probably created posts, answered questions on popular developer platforms etc.

Every time you're on the internet, you're engaging with markdown without even realizing it and today we are going to see what exactly is Markdown and compare it with Markup but mainly our focus will be on the latter.

Markup Vs Markdown

Markup is a general term for content formatting - such as HTML - but markdown is a library that generates HTML markup.


Mark-up is a term from print editing - the editor would go through the text and add annotations (i.e. this in italic, that in bold) for the printers to use when producing the final version. This was called marking up the text.

A computer mark-up language is just a standardised short-hand for these sorts of annotations.

HTML is basically the web's standard mark-up language, but it's rather verbose.

Markdown is a lightweight markup language for creating formatted text using a plain-text editor and you could also write real HTML alongside it.

John Gruber and Aaron Swartz created Markdown in 2004 as an open-source markup language that is appealing to human readers in its source code form.


Today, Markdown is widely used in blogging, instant messaging, online forums, collaborative software, documentation pages, and readme files.

A list in HTML;

    <li>Item No 1</li>
    <li>Item No 2</li>

A list in Markdown;

* Item No 1
* Item No 2

Both will work in your Hashnode or most blog post editors and the output is the same hence both generate Markup content.

Markdown can't do everything HTML can, but both are mark-up languages. It is a plain text formatting tool and a software tool written in Perl to convert text to HTML.


Markdown files have an extension of .md or .markdown

Markdown Variants

Since it is open-source, many companies have come out with their own versions and some offer it at a price and so different versions of it may not be fully interoperable, at least from my experience.

GitHub Flavored Markdown
GitHub had been using its own variant of Markdown since as early as 2009.


Often shortened as GFM, it is the dialect that is currently supported for user content on the main GitHub and GitHub Enterprise.

Markdown Extra
Markdown Extra is a lightweight markup language based on Markdown implemented in PHP (originally), Python and Ruby.

Markdown Extra implements some advanced features currently not available with the plain Markdown syntax.

LiaScriptis an extension to Markdown to support the creation of free and open online courses, interactive books and thus, Open Educational Resources (OER).

MDX is an extension to Markdown that lets you include JSX in Markdown documents. MDX makes it possible to include React components in your Gatsby blog posts and pages.

These were worth mentioning and there are lots of variants and I recently stumbled upon Docz. Docz makes it easy to write and publish beautiful interactive documentation for your code based on MDX.

MD Editors

Markdown editors may feature a side-by-side preview window or render the code directly in a WYSIWYG fashion.


There are also In-browser Markdown online editors that you could try to use.

Jotter Pad
An online WYSIWYG editor that converts your written work into rich text, which can be exported to Word, Markdown, PDF and HTML.

A source code documentation generator that supports Markdown with extra features.

An IDE for R. It provides a C++ wrapper function for a markdown variant called sundown.

It is an online cloud-based HTML5 filled Markdown Editor.

Stack Edit
Full-featured, open-source Markdown editor based on PageDown, the Markdown library used by Stack Overflow and the other Stack Exchange sites.

Typora provides strict mode settings for users who want to enforce syntax limitations on headings, ordered lists, and unordered lists.

There are lots of other MD editors that you could try and some offer both premium and freemium packages.


Markup is a generic term for a language that describes a document's formatting.

Markdown is not and will never be a replacement for HTML, its syntax is limited and since it is plain text, you can literally use it everywhere. Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers.


The most widely used markup languages are SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), and XML (Extensible Markup Language).

Notes & Resources

Markdown has a real simple syntax that is easy to remember and you may want to read more and get more information that I could not digest in this article.

Daring Fireball Markdown Project
Markdown Wikipedia
Markdown Guide
Common Mark Spec

I am not affiliated with any of the companies and products mentioned in this article and I am doing all this for free knowledge-sharing


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