Although SO already has Markdown and HTML, it would also be nice if BBCodes would also be supported. They are a de-facto standard on many internet forums and it would help new users if they could use the syntax they are used to. Even I still catch myself writing bbcodes very often and have to re-edit my posts to replace them with Markdown. And I've been using SO nearly every day for more than a year.

Added: Seems that people totally misunderstood me. I didn't mean to add more formatting possibilities. I meant to add the possibility to use the same formatting possibilities already there, but with bbcode syntax. So you can use [b] and [i] and [code] and [url].

Added 2: Wow, 11 downvotes and only one upvote. O_O Certainly not what I expected. With BBCode being so ubiquitous, I thought people would like the proposal.

I know that Jeff went through a bunch of markup languages and disliked BBCode - but that's just Jeff. As he has often said himself - the people run SO, so the people are the ones who get the most say. So I just spoke my mind.

Well, this certainly proves that people around here don't like BBCode. So be it.

  • 1
    I too use BBCode instinctively. I would value this. Commented Mar 14, 2010 at 11:08
  • 5
    I hate BBCode so I'm against this, but I can see how people used to it could profit from it. So +-0
    – Pekka
    Commented Mar 14, 2010 at 15:17
  • 4
    So you want to SO reimplement BB code as a subset of markdown for people too lazy to learn a new, very self-documenting syntax? Lets not forget that Markdown is very readable without being parsed, as a normal document, much more so then BB code
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 14, 2010 at 19:05
  • @ESW - Exceptif you want to insert an URL, where it gets really weird and messy. Even HTML is more readable than Markdown there (and BBCode is the best).
    – Vilx-
    Commented Mar 15, 2010 at 0:34
  • 1
    -1 This is horrible, horrible idea. BBCode is a hideous, even evil markup language. For the love of Cthulhu keep this monstrosity as far away from SO as possible. Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 3:28
  • It's no more hideous and evil than HTML. Except we're all using that. Oops. My belief is that one should always go with the mainstream, as it will always please the most users. And if you don't go with mainstream, then at least provide a mainstream fallback for those who want to. But that's just my opinion.
    – Vilx-
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 8:27
  • 1
    @Vilx- 1) HTML is used everywhere on the Internet and is better standardized. BBCode is used by crappy forums. 2) HTML needs no parsing 3) BBCode introduces potential conflicts with Markdown Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 0:13
  • 1) BBCode is used by nearly every forum, from crappy to the best. And it's pretty standartized. Much better than HTML, I'd say, where tons of things are still left to the discretion of the implementor. 2) Yes, the browser displays it magically with the help of Unicorns, right? 3) Conflicts can be resolved.
    – Vilx-
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 8:14
  • 2
    I'd argue that "good" forums don't really exist, but I digress. Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 14:33
  • @Vilx- 1) What "tons of things"? Can you give an example of something covered by BBCode which has HTML counterparts that are inconsistent? And since BBCode just generates HTML anyways, isn't that argument a bit circular? 2) When I said parsing I meant parsing by SO 3) And the millions of existing posts be damned, right? Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 14:37
  • 1) Not that way. I mean that every BBCode tag has a precisely defined way of converting it to HTML, and the set of tags is pretty standard across the board (with some small variations around the edge). HTML and CSS on the other hand have a lot of things in their specs that are dependent on the user agent or otherwise deliberately ambiguous. Just read the spec, it's littered with such imprecisions.
    – Vilx-
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 18:27
  • 2) Both Markdown and BBCode will require parsing. Perhaps BBCode even less than Markdown because the tags are more uniform. Comparing either to HTML is unfair. 3) I'm fully confident that the implementation of BBCodes does not need to break existing posts. They are quite specific and I highly doubt that there will be many cases in existing posts that will result in a legal BBCode.
    – Vilx-
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 18:36

4 Answers 4


bbcode magic

  • 10
    For the sake of sanity, I have decided against animating this.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Mar 14, 2010 at 11:58
  • You misunderstood me totally. I don't mean to add more formatting options. I mean to expose the same ones that already exist with BBCode syntax. As @Smalltown2000 commented, when you've been around forums for a while, bbcodes become instinctive when posting online.
    – Vilx-
    Commented Mar 14, 2010 at 12:42
  • 2
    @Vilx-: So what you want is pretty much replacing square brackets with angle brackets. That's a pretty large change for what has yet to be proven to be valuable to more than a few people.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Mar 14, 2010 at 12:51
  • 2
    +1 for hilariousness, even though it's basically unfair because it wasn't the OP's point.
    – Pekka
    Commented Mar 14, 2010 at 15:17
  • Accepted for the sake of accepting. And hilariousness.
    – Vilx-
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 13:31

BBcode is far inferior to Markdown, IMO. Also, for a lot of bbcodes, just replacing the square brackets with angle brackets gets you HTML, if it bothers you that much. Also, more formatting options means more code to debug, and more possibilities for collision. What about those showing optional arguments in methods names:


Some question talking about somemethod(num, [list])

  • The same old \ escape could work for BBCodes as well. And code mode already disables all other formatting options.
    – Vilx-
    Commented Mar 14, 2010 at 12:41
  • 5
    So you're proposing we make people use \[ and \] instead of just [ and ]? Are you going to go back and edit all the old posts? And not everyone uses code tags for every single piece of code they mention.
    – Macha
    Commented Mar 14, 2010 at 13:47

It is worth recalling that bbcode was considered and rejected.

We have two sets of allowed markup as it is, and three would be an unnecessary complication.

Moreover, I knew and used bbcode for years before encountering markdown for the first time on Stack Overflow, and have come to intensely prefer markdown. I miss it everywhere but most especially when I find myself using some tool to only supports the clunkiness that is bbcode.

Put me down as against it.


A point worth mentioning here is that SO's (the company) goals now include replacing most of the old phpBB and vBulletin -style forums out there. Your main argument is that bbcode is a known standard, but I think a big part of the impetus for StackOverflow is that the known standards are bad — let's go do something better.

Also, I agree the oft-shown url examples like this are ugly:

[text here](http://example.com)

Fortunately, there's several ways to show a url in markdown. I think the "footnote" style syntax works pretty well, and hyperlink button on the toolbar makes it easy to do:

[text here][1]

... end of post


Note that you can use aliases, like

[your text here][note]

... end of post

  [note]: http://www.example.com    
  • Actually, it's exactly the footnote style that drives me crazy. The URL and the text should be together. That's why I always resorted to HTML for URLs in SO. Seems that I missed the above syntax, that's much better.
    – Vilx-
    Commented Mar 15, 2010 at 11:40
  • 1
    @Vilx- The footnote syntax is inspired by references like in academic papers or wikis. I personally think it's a lot better, especially if the urls are long. Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 3:35
  • Actually, not long after typing the above comment I discovered that there is a way to write text and URL together (or maybe it was this answer, who knows) My bad. Didn't RTFM. But I still stand by my words that the separated text and URL are a lot more awkward to write and understand.
    – Vilx-
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 8:16

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