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November 07, 2007

Microformats – The nanotechnology of the web

Writing about web page http://www.microformats.org

Jeremy Keith

Centralised vs. Decentralised: Smart vs. Dumb

- The internet is a dumb, decentralised network, but each component is just smart enough to get by, and this leads to the whole being very resilient to complexity
- RDF vs HTML: RDF is too complex and hard to publish. Anyone can make HTML
- If markup were robots, XML/RDF would be mechas – big, cool, but not for everyone, HTML would be a nanobot – Dumb, ubiquitous, and reliant on network effects to acheive anything
- People first, machines second. Given a trade-off between ease of publication and ease of machine-consumption, favour publication heavily.
- Microformats are an 80/20 solution; some use cases just aren’t do-able with microformats. That’s a deliberate design choice. Go for the low-hanging fruit

  • Microformat building blocks:
    – the rel attribute on links and anchors: rel=”license”, XFN ( rel=”friend met colleague” etc)
    – the class attribute: hCard, class=”vcard”, class=”fn url”; hCalendar
    – hCalendar is an example where a microformat has had to give way on the ease-of-publication vs. ease-of-consumption scale; dates are specified twice;
    [abbr title="2007-11-05" class="dtstart"] November 5th [/abbr]    

(2007-11-05 is an ISO standard format for dates)

- microformats are seeds
- expose – CSS.
- Discover – Firefox Operator
- Convert – technorati XSL service

  • problems:
    – Spam
    – trust
    – these are problems with HTML generally; microformats don’t make this easier or harder
    – grey goo – explosion of formats – there’s an established process for developing new microformats, to control adoption.
    – Microformats vs. POSH (Plain Old Semantic HTML)
  • Community: wiki, irc, email, blog (tag microformats)
  • The future
    – portable social networks
    – syndicated contact details
    – semantic web (little-s little-w). No RDF!

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