Web 2.0 has its positive and its negative sides. Apart from tremendous technological improvements, provided by Ajax, semantically organized content and the growing popularity of RSS-Feeds, the term “Web 2.0″ still hadn’t managed to assert itself as the renewed Web rather than a new revolutionary technology as it is mistakenly being called.
Consequence: many renewed techniques, which somehow seem to be related to the “new” Web, aren’t fully or properly understood. This results in public misunderstandings and keeps both developers and users away from the use (the improvement) of these techniques.
One of the new terms on the horizon is Microformats (sometimes abbreviated µF or uF) – formats, which make it possible to create meta-content which can be not only read, but also understood by machines (which was the basic idea of Semantic Web2, which is not Web 2.0). This post is supposed to give you an idea, what Microformats actually mean, which advantages they have and how you can use them to enrich your content and make it more visible and understandable for search engines.
Things you should know about Microformats
- “Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards.” [Microformats: Official definition4]
- “Microformats is the generic name given to any format that builds on XML (X)HTML to provide additional metadata about web objects.” [Microcontent Design5]
- “Microformats are simple codes that you can use to identify specific kinds of data, like people or events, in your webpages.” [Chris Messina6]
- “A microformat is a piece of mark up that allows expression of semantics in an HTML (or XHTML) web page. Programs can extract meaning from a web page that is marked up with one or more microformats.” [Wikipedia: Microformats7]
- “With Microformats, you can send & publish things like events, business cards, and product reviews as meaningful XHTML that a person can read in a browser, but a program can import, index and remix as native data.” [Michael McCracken8]
- “Microformats are about using the standards we all know […] to convey as much semantic meaning as possible. They use current XHTML tags such as
blockquoteand attributes such as
titleto create semantically appropriate blocks of code.” [Microformats Primer379]
- “Microformats are not a new language, but adapted to current behaviors and usage patterns and is connected with semantic XHTML.” [About Microformats10]
- “Microformats principles: solve a specific problem, simple as possible, reuse from widely adopted standards (semantic (X)HTML), modularity / embeddability, decentralized development, content, services. [What are microformats3611]
- “That’s what microformats are, adding semantics to markup to take it from being machine readable to being machine understandable.” [Microformats: Introduction351912]
- “There are lots of different microformats, ranging from very fundamental types of information like contacts13, locations14, and events15, to the slightly more domain specific, like reviews16 and resumes17, to the very domain specific, like wines18.”[Microformats: Introduction351912]
hAtom is a microformat for content that can be syndicated, primarily but not exclusively weblog postings. hAtom is based on a subset of the Atom22 syndication format.
- hCalendar23 | hCalendar Creator24
hCalendar is a simple, open, distributed calendaring and events format, suitable for embedding in (X)HTML, Atom, RSS, and arbitrary XML.
- hCard25 | hCard Creator26
hCard is a format for representing people, companies, organizations, and places, in semantic XHTML.
- hResume27 | hResume Creator28
hResume is a microformat for publishing resumes and CVs.
- hReview29 | hReview Creator30
hReview is an open, distributed format, suitable for embedding reviews (of products, services, businesses, events, etc.) in (X)HTML, Atom, RSS, and arbitrary XML.
Is an HTML attribute value used to instruct search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index. Regarded as a microformat.
By adding rel=”tag” to a hyperlink, a page indicates that the destination of that hyperlink is an author-designated “tag” (or keyword/subject) for the current page. Note that a tag may just refer to a major portion of the current page (i.e. a blog post). e.g. by placing this link on a page,
<a href="http://technorati.com/tag/tech" rel="tag">tech</a>, the author indicates that the page has the tag “tech”.
XHTML Friends Network (XFN) is a simple way to represent human relationships using hyperlinks developed by Global Multimedia Protocols Group. XFN enables web authors to indicate their relationship(s) to the people in their blogrolls simply by adding a ‘rel’ attribute to their
<a href>tags, e.g.:
<a href="http://jeff.example.org" rel="friend met">.
XOXO (eXtensible Open XHTML Outlines) is an XML format for outlines built from XHTML modularization. Developed by several authors as an attempt to reuse XHTML building blocks instead of inventing unnecessary new XML elements/attributes, XOXO is both based on existing behavior of publishing outlines, lists, and blogrolls on the Web, and as a general outline format for 1:1 processing of fundamental programming language datastructures.
xFolk is a simple and open format for publishing collections of bookmarks.
Advantages of Microformats
- “Say you want to sell your car. […] What if we could somehow post a listing to our blog, and then easily let services which cared about classifieds listings know that there is a new or updated classified at my site. The missing piece that would enable this is a standard format (after all html doesn’t have a
element).” [Add Microformats Magic to your site34]
- “Now your information is scattered all over the Web, and you have to pick which sites you want to use. Soon: the combination of blogging and microformats is now reversing this model. Now, your information remains in your blog, and the Web sites come to you. For instance, if you want to sell something, you can blog about it using an hListing, and a site like edgeio will find it when it aggregates classified advertisements across the Web.” [Microformats: Introduction351912]
- “Microformats enable the publishing and sharing of higher fidelity information on the Web. Small bits of (X)HTML that identify richer data types like people and events in your webpages. Building blocks that enable users to own, control, move, and share their data on the Web.” [What are microformats3611]
- Benefits of Microformats: they are (search) machine-readable, accurate and appropriate metadata, meaningful markup.
- With Microformats “you can create more consistent content. You can share your microformat with content providers, ensuring that you’ll get content in the right format. You don’t need to DO anything to that content before you present it to users.” [The Awesome Power of Microformats5638]
- “So what use would microformats be in a web browser? […] Future Web browsers are likely going to associate semantically marked up data you encounter on the Web with specific applications, either on your system or online. This means the contact information you see on a Web site will be associated with your favorite contacts application.” [Mozilla Does Microformats5139]
- “The idea is that i.e. as soon as any page that has an hCard on it you can add to your address book, you can sync it with your PDA, your handheld, and it makes contact information, personal information, on the web a lot more useful.” [Microformats: Evolving the Web5040]
Microformats are already being used!
- Edgeio.com (Weblog based business as niche for small and large companies), Rubhub.com41 (determines relationships between websites and peoples, scenarios: find alternative connections for supplies in producer chains,
bookseller, car suppliers, internal contact management within large companies), Technorati.com42 (indexes hCard, hCalendar, and hReview, and also cumulative data is updated via event-driven pings)
- Microformats can be used within Firefox Extensions (Tails43, Greasemonkey scripts44 for hCard, hCalendar, xFolks, etc.) and Blogging Extensions (Structured Blogging45 for WordPress)
Articles About Microformats
- microformats – What are microformats?46
Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards. Learn more about microformats. The official web-page.
- Digital Web Magazine – Microformats Primer47
Introductory article on Microformats by Garrett Dimon
- Add microformats magic to your site48
Heard of the semantic web? Using Microformats everyone can contribute to the richness of the web. John Allsopp explains how.
- Digital Web Magazine – The Big Picture on Microformats49
“In this article, we’ll review what people are doing with microformats right now, and finish up by looking at a couple of cool projects that might whet your appetite for microformats’ future prospects.” by John Allsopp
- Microformats: Evolving the Web5040
Jeremy Keith – This is a transcript of a panel I sat in on at South by Southwest 2006. My fellow panelists are Chris Messina and Norm! The moderator is Tantek Çelik.
- Mozilla Does Microformats5139
Firefox 3 as Information Broker – Richard MacManus
- What are Microformats?52
A presentation by Tantek Çelik
- Introduction to Microformats53
Microformats: Introduction, Structured Data, The Fundamental, Introducing Operator
- Microformats and the Decentralized Future of Online Marketing54
Firefox’s Alex Faaborg has raised quite a few eyebrows with his piece on Microformats and the possibilities that exist for these platforms in terms of browser implementation
- Microformats Challenge Web Feeds and Web APIs!55
Microformats are subversive: they not only challenge the approach of full-blown Semantic Web approaches, but even question fundamental Web 2.0 building blocks such as Web Feeds and Web APIs.
- The Awesome Power of Microformats5638
What Are Microformats? – by Kevin Lawver
- Usable Microformats
If you’re relatively new to microformats, then this article was written with you in mind. You don’t need to have any prior knowldege to understand what’s going on here.by Andy Hume
Microformats – Designed for humans first.by Prof. Dr. Mathias Weske
- Microformats Bookmarklet59
helps to extract existing hCards and hCalendars and shows and stores existing contacts and events.
- Tails Export60
An extension for Showing and Exporting Microformats. Currently it supports hCard [export to .vcf file], hCalendar [export to .ics file], hReview, xFolk and Rel-license.
- Highlight Microformats with CSS61
Those that use Firefox with the Tails extension, read no further. This is not for you. You have it given to you on a plate, you don’t know how lucky you are. This is for those of us using Camino, Safari or Omniweb.
Operator leverages microformats that are already available on many web pages to provide new ways to interact with web services. It lets you combine pieces of information on Web sites with applications in ways that are useful. For instance, Flickr + Google Maps, Upcoming.org + Google Calendar, Yahoo! Local + your address book, and many more possibilities and permutations.
- Microformats Dreamweaver Extension63
Microformats Dreamweaver extension (ideally for use with Dreamweaver 8, although should work for MX and above) implements a few simple Insert Bar Objects to help Dreamweaver users to add hCalendar, hCard, rel-license, rel-tag and XFN data to their documents. After installing, you’ll find a new Microformats category on your Insert Bar. Support for more formats is to follow, so check back.
A CSS-based template for existing microformats, based upon the microformats cheatsheet (PDF)65
- Microformats Cheat Sheet66
This Microformats Cheat Sheet covers iCalendar, hCalendar, hReview, vCard, hCard, RelLicense, RelTag, XFN Format and Values and Dates.
- Microformats Cheat Sheet67
This microformats cheat sheet lists the properties by format and also lists each format and the hierarchy. This includes elemental microformats, compound microformats and some of the standard design patterns used.
- Microformats Icons68
The starter set contains icons for hCal, hResume, hCard, XFN and a generic TAG icon.
Tutorials, Introductions to Microformats
- Tutorials on Microformats69
This series of articles deals with numerous aspects of Microformats, including basic theory and purpose of Microformats, hCard, hCalendar, AHAH, hReview, xFolk, hResume, XOXO and hAtom.
- Intro to microformats70
Confused, alarmed, disparaged? Let’s clear that up. An extensive introduction to the theory and use of Microformats.
- Introduction to Microformats + a look at hCard & hAtom71
Mike Jolley explains step-by-step, what Microformats are, how they can be integrated in web-pages and how you can enhance the efficicency of your content using them.
- Pairing Wine and Microformats72
Microformats in Practice: Dan Cederholm about the use of Microformats in Cork’d73.
- Microformats in Web Browsers74
This is a concept for putting Microformats ‘auto-discovery’ user interface in a web browser. Any web browser (although the sketches were original conceived as a Firefox extension).by Ben Ward
- Wikipedia: Microformats75
The Wikipedia Entry.
- Practical Microformats76
Microformats from the Ground Up – an extensive tutorial, by Ryan King77 and Brian Suda78
- Using Microformats in WordPress79
There are two approaches you can take. One: Manually pasting relevant microformat code created via microformat creators. Step-by-step instructions are as follows.
Blogs & Wikis
Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards. Learn more about microformats.
- Microformats Wiki81
What are microformats? What can you do with them?
Microformatique is an unofficial blog covering all things microformats, and “data at the edges”. Latest specifications, presentations, events, publications and more. It’s put togther by John Allsopp
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- 2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_Web
- 3 http://microformats.org/about/
- 4 http://microformats.org/wiki/what-are-microformats
- 5 http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/microcontent_de.php
- 6 http://factoryjoe.com/blog/2006/12/14/make-me-money-make-you-money/
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- 14 http://microformats.org/wiki/adr
- 15 http://microformats.org/wiki/hcalendar
- 16 http://microformats.org/wiki/hreview
- 17 http://microformats.org/wiki/hresume
- 18 http://microformats.org/discuss/mail/microformats-discuss/2006-November/007180.html
- 19 http://blog.mozilla.com/faaborg/2006/12/11/microformats-part-0-introduction/
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- 24 http://microformats.org/code/hcalendar/creator
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- 27 http://microformats.org/wiki/hresume
- 28 http://hresume.weblogswork.com/hresumecreator/
- 29 http://microformats.org/wiki/hreview
- 30 http://microformats.org/code/hreview/creator
- 31 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XHTML_Friends_Network
- 32 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XOXO
- 33 http://microformats.org/wiki/xfolk
- 34 http://www.thinkvitamin.com/features/design/how-to-use-microformats
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- 39 http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/mozilla_does_microformats_firefox3.php
- 40 http://adactio.com/articles/1146/
- 41 http://www.rubhub.com
- 42 http://www.technorati.com
- 43 https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/addon/2240
- 44 http://microformats.org/wiki/Greasemonkey
- 45 http://www.structuredblogging.com
- 46 http://microformats.org/
- 47 http://www.digital-web.com/articles/microformats_primer/
- 48 http://www.thinkvitamin.com/features/design/how-to-use-microformats
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- 50 http://adactio.com/articles/1146/
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- 52 http://tantek.com/presentations/2006/07/what-are-microformats/
- 53 http://blog.mozilla.com/faaborg/2006/12/11/microformats-part-0-introduction/
- 54 http://www.costpernews.com/2007/01/03/microformats-and-the-decentralized-future-of-online-marketing/
- 55 http://duncan-cragg.org/blog/post/microformats-challenge-web-feeds-and-web-apis/
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- 57 http://myhpi.de/~schapran/pke/
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- 59 http://leftlogic.com/info/articles/microformats_bookmarklet#?
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- 69 http://www.xfront.com/microformats/
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- 72 http://www.simplebits.com/notebook/2006/06/10/wineformats.html
- 73 http://corkd.com/
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- 82 http://microformatique.com/