Markdown is a plain text formatting syntax aimed at making writing for the internet easier. The philosophy behind Markdown is that plain text documents should be readable without tags mussing everything up, but there should still be ways to add text modifiers like lists, bold, italics, etc. It is an alternative to WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors, which use rich text that later gets converted to proper HTML.
Using Markdown is different than using a WYSIWYG editor. In an application like Microsoft Word, you click buttons to format words and phrases, and the changes are visible immediately. Markdown isn’t like that. When you create a Markdown-formatted file, you add Markdown syntax to the text to indicate which words and phrases should look different.
You might be wondering why people use Markdown instead of a WYSIWYG editor. Why write with Markdown when you can press buttons in an interface to format your text? As it turns out, there are a couple different reasons why people use Markdown instead of WYSIWYG editors.
Markdown can be used for everything. People use it to create websites, documents, notes, books, presentations, email messages, and technical documentation.
Markdown is portable. Files containing Markdown-formatted text can be opened using virtually any application. If you decide you don’t like the Markdown application you’re currently using, you can import your Markdown files into another Markdown application. That’s in stark contrast to word processing applications like Microsoft Word that lock your content into a proprietary file format.
Markdown is platform independent. You can create Markdown-formatted text on any device running any operating system.
Markdown is future proof. Even if the application you’re using stops working at some point in the future, you’ll still be able to read your Markdown-formatted text using a text editing application. This is an important consideration when it comes to books, university theses, and other milestone documents that need to be preserved indefinitely.
Markdown is everywhere. Websites like Reddit and GitHub support Markdown, and lots of desktop and web-based applications support it.