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microformat
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{{selfref|For details of microformats used on Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Microformats.}}{{About||the photographic miniaturization of documents|Microform}}A microformat (sometimes abbreviated μF) is a World Wide Web-based approach to semantic markup which uses HTML/XHTML tags supported for other purposes to convey additional metadataWEB,weblink Microformats.org, Class Names Across All Microformats, 2007-09-23, 2008-09-06, 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 has been capable of some "automated processing" since the inception of the web, such processing is difficult because the markup tags used to display information on the web do not describe what the information means.WEB, 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,weblink 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 | 2013}} microformats allow the encoding and extraction of event details, contact information, social relationships and similar information.

Background

Microformats emerged around 2005{{NoteTag|1= The microformats is a community-standard maintained by its Wiki, and the Wiki arrived ~2005.}} as part of a grassroots movement to make recognizable data items (such as events, contact details or geographical locations) capable of automated processing by software, as well as directly readable by end-users.{{NoteTag|In this context, the definition of "end-user" includes a person reading a web page on a computer screen or mobile device, or an assistive technology such as a screen reader.}} Link-based microformats emerged first. These include vote links that express opinions of the linked page, which search engines can tally into instant polls.JOURNAL, Microformats: The Next (Small) Thing on the Semantic Web?, Rohit, Khare, IEEE Internet Computing, 10, 1, 68–75, January–February 2006, IEEE Computer Society,weblink 10.1109/MIC.2006.13, 2008-09-06, CommerceNet, a nonprofit organization that promotes e-commerce on the Internet, has helped sponsor and promote the technology and support the microformats community in various ways. CommerceNet also helped co-found the Microformats.org community site.Neither CommerceNet nor Microformats.org operates as a standards body. The microformats community functions through an open wiki, a mailing list, and an Internet relay chat (IRC) channel. Most of the existing microformats originated at the Microformats.org wiki and the associated mailing list{{citation needed|date=October 2012}} by a process of gathering examples of web-publishing behaviour, then codifying it. Some other microformats (such as rel=nofollow and unAPI) have been proposed, or developed, elsewhere.

Technical overview

XHTML and HTML standards allow for the embedding and encoding of semantics within the attributes of markup tags. Microformats take advantage of these standards by indicating the presence of metadata using the following attributes:
class
Classname
rel
relationship, description of the target address in an anchor-element (...)
rev
reverse relationship, description of the referenced document (in one case, otherwise deprecated in microformatsWEB,weblink "rel" attribute frequently asked questions, Microformats.org, 2008-08-06, 2008-09-06, )
For example, in the text "The birds roosted at 52.48, -1.89" is a pair of numbers which may be understood, from their context, to be a set of geographic coordinates. With wrapping in spans (or other HTML elements) with specific class names (in this case geo, latitude and longitude, all part of the geo microformat specification):
The birds roosted at

52.48,
-1.89

software agents can recognize exactly what each value represents and can then perform a variety of tasks such as indexing, locating it on a map and exporting it to a GPS device.

Examples

In this example, the contact information is presented as follows:


Joe Doe
The Example Company
604-555-1234
weblink

With hCard microformat markup, that becomes:


Joe Doe
The Example Company
604-555-1234
weblink

Here, the formatted name (fn), organisation (org), telephone number (tel) and web address (url) have been identified using specific class names and the whole thing is wrapped in class="vcard", which indicates that the other classes form an hCard (short for "HTML vCard") and are not merely coincidentally named. Other, optional, hCard classes also exist. Software, such as browser plug-ins, can now extract the information, and transfer it to other applications, such as an address book.

In-context examples

For annotated examples of microformats on live pages, see HCard#Live example and Geo (microformat)#Usage.

Specific microformats

Several microformats have been developed to enable semantic markup of particular types of information. However, only hCard and hCalendar have been ratified, the others remaining as drafts:

Uses

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 microformats to be exported into formats compatible with contact management and calendar utilities, such as Microsoft Outlook. When dealing with geographical coordinates, they allow the location to be sent to applications such as Google Maps. Yahoo! Query Language can be used to extract microformats from web pages.WEB,weblink Retrieving and displaying data from Wikipedia with YQL, Heilman, Chris, 2009-01-19, Yahoo Developer Network, Yahoo, 2009-01-19, yes,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110127010715weblink">weblink 27 January 2011, dmy-all, 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.WEB,weblink Introducing Rich Snippets, Goel, Kavi, Ramanathan V. Guha, Othar Hansson, 2009-05-12, Google Webmaster Central Blog, Google, 2009-05-25, They have since extended this to use hCalendar for eventsWEB,weblink Better recipes on the web: Introducing recipe rich snippets, Gong, Jun, Kosuke Suzuki, Yu Watanabe, 2010-04-13, Google, 17 March 2011, and hRecipe for cookery recipes. Similarly, microformats are also processed by BingWEB,weblink Bing Introducing Schema.org: Bing, Google and Yahoo Unite to Build the Web of Objects - Search Blog - Site Blogs - Bing Community, 2011-06-02, Bing (search engine), Bing, 2 June 2011, and Yahoo!.WEB,weblink Introducing schema.org: A Collaboration on Structured Data, 2011-06-02, 2 June 2011, yes,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110603031707weblink">weblink 3 June 2011, dmy-all, As of late 2010, these are the world's top three search engines.WEB,weblink Top 5 Search Engines from Oct to Dec 10 | StatCounter Global Stats, StatCounter, 17 January 2011, Microsoft said in 2006 that they needed to incorporate Microformats into upcoming projects,WEB,weblink Bill Gates at Mix06 – "We need microformats", 2006-03-20, 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…, 2008-09-06, as did 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:Microformats – Part 4: The User Interface of Microformat Detection « Alex Faaborg
  • 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

Evaluation

Various commentators have offered review and discussion on the design principles and practical aspects of microformats. Microformats have been compared to other approaches that seek to serve the same or similar purpose.WEB, Criticism, Microformats.org,weblink 2007-03-24, 2007-08-15, From time to time, there is criticism of one, or all, microformats. The spread and use of microformats has been advocated.WEB, Advocacy, Microformats.org,weblink 2008-08-27, 2007-08-15, WEB, Spread Microformats, Microformats.org,weblink 2008-08-29, 2007-08-15, This includes community resources for marketing microformats such as buttons, banners, wallpaper / desktop screens, logo graphics, etc. Opera Software CTO and CSS creator Håkon Wium Lie said in 2005 "We will also see a bunch of microformats being developed, and that’s how the semantic web will be built, I believe."WEB, Interview with Håkon Wium Lie,weblink Molly E., Holzschlag, Molly Holzschlag, 2005-03-31, Molly.com, 2007-11-18, However, in August 2008 Toby Inkster, author of the "Swignition" (formerly "Cognition") microformat parsing service, pointed out that no new microformat specifications had been published since 2005.WEB, More than three years,weblink Microformats.org, Toby A., Inkster, 2008-04-22, 2008-08-24,

Design principles

Computer scientist and entrepreneur, Rohit Khare stated that reduce, reuse, and recycle is "shorthand for several design principles" that motivated the development and practices behind microformats.{{rp|71–72}} These aspects can be summarized as follows:
  • Reduce: favor the simplest solutions and focus attention on specific problems;
  • Reuse: work from experience and favor examples of current practice;
  • Recycle: encourage modularity and the ability to embed, valid XHTML can be reused in blog posts, RSS feeds, and anywhere else you can access the web.

Accessibility

Because some microformats make use of title attribute of HTML's {{tag|abbr|open}} element to conceal machine-readable data (particularly date-times and geographical coordinates) in the "abbr design pattern", the plain text content of the element is inaccessible to screen readers that expand abbreviations.WEB,weblink hAccessibility, James, Craig, Web Standards Project, 2007-04-27, 2007-08-16, In June 2008 the BBC announced that it would be dropping use of microformats using the abbr design pattern because of accessibility concerns.WEB,weblink Removing Microformats from bbc.co.uk/programmes, Michael, Smethurst, BBC, 2008-06-23, 2008-08-24,

Comparison with alternative approaches

Microformats are not the only solution for providing "more intelligent data" on the web; alternative approaches are used and are under development. 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: {{cquote|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.}}For some applications the use of other approaches may be valid. If the type of data to be described does not map to an existing microformat, RDFa can embed arbitrary vocabularies into HTML, such as for example domain-specific scientific data such as zoological or chemical data for which there is no microformat. Standards such as W3C's GRDDL allow microformats to be converted into data compatible with the Semantic Web.WEB, W3C GRDDL Recommendation Bridges HTML/Microformats and the Semantic Web, XML Coverpages, 2007-09-13,weblink OASIS (organization), OASIS, 2007-11-23, Another advocate of microformats, Ryan King, put the compatibility of microformats with other approaches this way: {{cquote|Microformats provide an easy way for many people to contribute semantic data to the web. With GRDDL all of that data is made available for RDF Semantic Web tools. Microformats and GRDDL can work together to build a better web.}}

Microformats 2

Microformats2 was proposed and discussed during FOOEast, 2010-05-02WEB, microformats 2.0 discussion, 2010-05-02,weblink . Microformats2 was intended to make it easier for authors to publish microformats and for developers to consume them, while remaining backwards compatibleWEB, microformats2,weblink Using microformats2, the example above would be marked up as:The birds roosted at

52.48,
-1.89
and:

Joe Doe
The Example Company
604-555-1234
weblink

See also

Notes

{{NoteFoot}}

References

Citations

{{Reflist}}

Sources

  • BOOK, Allsopp, John, Microformats: Empowering Your Markup for Web 2.0, March 2007, Apress, Friends of ED, 978-1-59059-814-6, 368,
  • BOOK, Orchard, Leslie M, Hacking RSS and Atom, September 2005, John Wiley & Sons, 978-0-7645-9758-9, 602,
  • BOOK, Robbins, Jennifer Niederst, Jennifer Niederst Robbins, Tantek, Çelik, Tantek Çelik, Derek, Featherstone, Aaron, Gustafson, Web Design In A Nutshell, Third, February 2006, O'Reilly Media, 978-0-596-00987-8, 826,

Further reading

External links

{{Commons category|Microformat screenshots}}
  • microformats.org
  • weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20060903093453weblink">Microformats Primer
  • Optimus microformats parser and validator
  • weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20070408210625weblink">A four-part discussion of Microformats, UI issues, and possible presentation in Firefox 3 by Alex Faaborg of Mozilla
{{Semantic Web}}{{Use dmy dates|date=January 2011}}

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