It's been nearly 18 months since Jeff Atwood asked about The Future of Markdown, proposing that...
...Stack Exchange, GitHub, Meteor, Reddit, and any other company with lots of traffic and a strategic investment in Markdown, all work together to come up with an official Markdown specification, and standard test suites to validate Markdown implementations.
Since then as far as I can tell, there has been not a lot of movement. A W3C Markdown Community Group was started and atrophied after a few months. There seems to be no momentum behind standardization and therefore no compelling reason why Stack Exchange should not go our own way: how long are we going to wait?
Jeff went on to say:
I'd really prefer not to fork the language; I'd much rather collectively help carry the banner of Markdown forward into the future, with the blessing of John Gruber and in collaboration with other popular sites that use Markdown.
The implication being that forking Markdown is something we should consider, if there is no hope of collaboration with John Gruber and the other sites. It's not happening. Let's fork now.
Jeff never wanted "to extend Markdown by adding tons of crazy new functionality", but, cards on the table, that's exactly what I want. Not that we need to allow every crazy feature everywhere, or indeed anywhere, but let's start by changing the Markdown engine to something very similar to Markdown Extra or GitHub Flavored Markdown and then have the discussion about what gets enabled where.
- The more technical sites are crying out for footnotes support. Unless you are a contributor on one of those sites, you won't understand why the workarounds suck for an answer like this one.
- Having no tables on DBA.SE is painful. I can see the arguments either way on SO, but there is no downside on a site that's all about tabular data.
- We can take the opportunity to fix the things about Markdown that are broken: the "lack of project leadership", the "so-called 'spec'" (Jeff's words); the ambiguities, the absence of a formal strict grammar or test suite.