A microformat (sometimes abbreviated μF) is a web-based approach to semantic markup which seeks to re-use existing HTML/XHTML tags to convey metadata and other attributes in web pages and other contexts that support (X)HTML, such as RSS. This approach allows software to process information intended for end-users (such as contact information, geographic coordinates, calendar events, and similar information) automatically.
Although the content of web pages is technically already capable of "automated processing", and has been since the inception of the web, such processing is difficult because the traditional markup tags used to display information on the web do not describe what the information means. Microformats can bridge this gap by attaching semantics, and thereby obviate other, more complicated, methods of automated processing, such as natural language processing or screen scraping. The use, adoption and processing of microformats enables data items to be indexed, searched for, saved or cross-referenced, so that information can be reused or combined.
As of 2010[update], microformats allow the encoding and extraction of events, contact information, social relationships and so on. Established microformats such as hCard are published on the web more than alternatives like schema and RDFa.
- Main Wikipedia article: Microformat
Uses of microformats
Using microformats within HTML code provides additional formatting and semantic data that applications can use. For example, applications such as web crawlers can collect data about on-line resources, or desktop applications such as e-mail clients or scheduling software can compile details. The use of microformats can also facilitate "mash ups" such as exporting all of the geographical locations on a web page into (for example) Google Maps to visualize them spatially.
Several browser extensions, such as Operator for Firefox and Oomph for Internet Explorer, provide the ability to detect microformats within an HTML document. When hCard or hCalendar are involved, such browser extensions allow to export them into formats compatible with contact management and calendar utilities, such as Microsoft Outlook. When dealing with geographical coordinates, they allow to send the location to maps applications such as Google Maps. Yahoo! Query Language can be used to extract microformats from web pages. On 12 May 2009, Google announced that they would be parsing the hCard, hReview and hProduct microformats, and using them to populate search result pages. They have since extended this to use hCalendar for events and hRecipe for cookery recipes. Similarly, microformats are also consumed by Bing and Yahoo!. Together, these are the world's top three search engines.
Microsoft expressed a desire to incorporate Microformats into upcoming projects; as have other software companies.
Alex Faaborg summarizes the arguments for putting the responsibility for microformat user interfaces in the web browser rather than making more complicated HTML:
- Only the web browser knows what applications are accessible to the user and what the user's preferences are
- It lowers the barrier to entry for web site developers if they only need to do the markup and not handle "appearance" or "action" issues
- Retains backwards compatibility with web browsers that don't support microformats
- The web browser presents a single point of entry from the web to the user's computer, which simplifies security issues
Comparison with alternative approaches
Microformats are not the only solution for providing "more intelligent data" on the web. Alternative approaches exist and are under development as well. For example, the use of XML markup and standards of the Semantic Web are cited as alternative approaches. Some contrast these with microformats in that they do not necessarily coincide with the design principles of "reduce, reuse, and recycle", at least not to the same extent.
One advocate of microformats, Tantek Çelik, characterized a problem with alternative approaches:
|“||Here's a new language we want you to learn, and now you need to output these additional files on your server. It's a hassle. (Microformats) lower the barrier to entry.||”|
- "Class Names Across All Microformats". Microformats.org (2007-09-23). Retrieved on 2008-09-06.
- "What’s the Next Big Thing on the Web? It May Be a Small, Simple Thing -- Microformats". Knowledge@Wharton. Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (2005-07-27).
- "Web Data Commons: Extracting Structured Data from the Common Web Crawl". 2012-03-22: Extraction results from the 2012 Common Crawl corpus available for download, 2012-03-13: Extraction results from the 2009/2010 Common Crawl corpus available for download (2012-03-22). Retrieved on 2012-04-09.
- Heilman, Chris (2009-01-19). "Retrieving and displaying data from Wikipedia with YQL". Yahoo Developer Network. Yahoo. Retrieved on 2009-01-19.
- Goel, Kavi; Ramanathan V. Guha, Othar Hansson (2009-05-12). "Introducing Rich Snippets". Google Webmaster Central Blog. Google. Retrieved on 2009-05-25.
- Gong, Jun; Kosuke Suzuki, Yu Watanabe (2010-04-13). "Better recipes on the web: Introducing recipe rich snippets". Google. Retrieved on 17 March 2011.
- "Bing Introducing Schema.org: Bing, Google and Yahoo Unite to Build the Web of Objects - Search Blog - Site Blogs - Bing Community". Bing (2011-06-02). Retrieved on 2 June 2011.
- "Introducing schema.org: A Collaboration on Structured Data" (2011-06-02). Retrieved on 2 June 2011.
- "Top 5 Search Engines from Oct to Dec 10 | StatCounter Global Stats". StatCounter. Retrieved on 17 January 2011.
- "Bill Gates at Mix06 – "We need microformats"" (2006-03-20). Retrieved on 2008-09-06. “We need microformats and to get people to agree on them. It is going to bootstrap exchanging data on the Web… …we need them for things like contact cards, events, directions…”
- Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; no text was provided for refs named
NOTE: This is only n extract of the full article from Wikipedia.
- Allsopp, John (March 2007). Microformats: Empowering Your Markup for Web 2.0. Friends of ED, 368. ISBN 978-1-59059-814-6.
- Orchard, Leslie M (September 2005). Hacking RSS and Atom. John Wiley & Sons, 602. ISBN 978-0-7645-9758-9.
- Robbins, Jennifer Niederst; Tantek Çelik, Derek Featherstone, Aaron Gustafson (February 2006). Web Design In A Nutshell, Third, O'Reilly Media, 826. ISBN 978-0-596-00987-8.
- Suda, Brian (September 2006). Using Microformats. O'Reilly Media, 45. ISBN 978-0-596-52821-8.
- Ahmet Soylu, Patrick De Causmaecker, Fridolin Wild Ubiquitous Web for Ubiquitous Environments: The Role of Embedded Semantics, article in Journal of Mobile Multimedia, Vol. 6, No.1, pp. 26–48, (2010). PDF
- Microformats Primer
- Optimus microformats parser and validator
- A four-part discussion of Microformats, UI issues, and possible presentation in Firefox 3 by Alex Faaborg of Mozilla