Microformats and rich snippets

/ 14 May 2009

Alex has been getting excited about microformats and just showed me a cool use of a people microformat for contact information on his blog. Today, Eric Childress brought Google’s newly announced “rich snippets” to my attention. Time O’Reilly points out an irony, though:

There’s some small irony that in its first steps towards requesting explicit structured data from webmasters, Google is specifying the vocabularies that can be used for its Rich Snippets rather than mining the structured data formats that already exist on the web. It would be more “googlish” (in the machine learning sense I’ve outlined above) to recognize and use them all, rather than asking webmasters to adopt a new format developed by Google.

Irony aside, microformats have been a growing trend for a while. I first became aware of them with the UnAPI proposal from the code4lib group. It is interesting to note that Google is hedging its bets for now, accepting two types of microformat: RDFa and a community microformat standards like hCard or hReview. RDFa feels like a very top-heavy libraryish standard to me, but it is well thought through and if widely adopted could leverage many other “semantic web” applications.

In any case, it looks like it may be time to really pay attention to microformats. Thanks, Alex, for getting the ball rolling!

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