Markup and Interoperability


A response to my last post accused me of being part of the "chosen tribe" who "make blogging as hostile as possible" and will "drive the normals from Twitter and Facebook too."

Why? Because I previously agreed that Markdown would be a good option for interoperability between blogs and Facebook.

Just another example of the tribe making it hard for normals to get on!

But, people are more familiar with markup than they think.

Surround a word with asterisks in Word or Outlook and it will be bolded, the same with underscores for italics - this is a widely known feature called "Real Formatting" and used by many. Hardly the reserve of a chosen tribe of nerds.

Google+ used basic markup right from the outset to add basic formatting to posts. Millions who had never considered anything like Markdown before were suddenly using basic markup without a second thought.

But this isn't the point I really wanted to make.


I'll admit to being a bit of a geek but wanting to use Markdown as a means of interoperability does not make me elitist.

Markdown is a standard which means that you know exactly what you're going to get rather than the various methods of implementing rich text that exist around the web. It has variants and offshoots but the core standard is defined and simple.

It doesn't have to be Markdown, Facebook would just need to implement something (preferably a recognised standard rather than a proprietary creation) that enables cross-posting to occur without losing formatting and links. Markdown is simply an obvious choice as it is becoming the de facto option.

People get nervous when they see the word "markup" assuming that it immediately puts a barrier between users and the systems they want to use. Employing Markdown within an environment such as Facebook, however, need not mean forcing everyone to write with it.



As seen in this tweet, Facebook At Work (effectively a Slack competitor) already includes Markdown support but it could be also made invisible to the end user.

Why not have a toggle to switch between manual entry or a WYSIWYG approach with formatting buttons but the content would still use Markdown as the underlying markup?

Providing options lets users post how they want whilst providing the interoperability to prevent a fractured experience across platforms.

Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog