What are Microformats?

15 June 2012

One thing that modern technology has come to be associated with is adaptability.

With the expectations of users outpacing the advancements in technology, there has been a constant struggle among developers to bring about necessary updates in the latter so as to meet the needs of its users. One such development has been the emergence of Microformats (abbreviation, µF or uF).

According to the official definition as posted on the official site, microfromats.org, the following features of Microformats emerge:

a) Microformats are primarily designed for easy reading and understanding by the humans;

(b) Microformats are simple to use;

(c) Microformats represent open data formats that are built upon commonly accepted standards.

A simple definition emerged through discussion on the official site, i.e., microformats are simple conventions for embedding semantics in HTML so as to facilitate decentralized development. In effect, we can break down the meaning of microformats in the following easily understood divisions:

1) These are simple codes and conventions.

2) These are meant to embed semantic markup.

3) These are used to address a specific problem domain.

4) These are in human readable format, i.e., XHTML, XML, RSS feeds, etc.

5) These can normalize the existing content usage patterns with the help of short and descriptive class names.

6) These are, generally, based on existing interoperable standards.

7) The primary purpose of microformats is to enable decentralized development of different tools, resources and services.

Another view that has emerged from various discussions on microformats is regarding their ease of use. Microformats are easier to add than publishing an RSS feed. You don’t require any special expertise or training to add them. The only prerequisite you need to have is working knowledge of XHTML and CSS authoring. Essentially, microformats are used with the specific purpose of achieving higher fidelity when it comes to publishing and sharing information on the internet.

Important Facts About Microformats

(i) The term “Microformats” is a generic title given to any and all the formats based on XML/XHTML with the objective of providing additional metadata concerning the Web objects.

(ii) Microformats are not hyper-technical codes. In fact, they are simpler than many other popular technologies, like RSS feeds. You can easily use Microformats for the purpose of identifying specific types of data on the website pages, like events, landmarks, etc.

(iii) There is nothing novel to microformats. They do not represent any new language. Rather, they are connected with semantic XHTML and simply, adapted to the current requirements of the users based on their usage and browsing behaviour.

(iv) The focus of Microformats is on the shift from machine readability to machine understand-ability, as far as markup is concerned. This is achieved by adding semantics to the markup.

Some Examples of Existing Microformats

hCalendar: calendaring and events format

hResume: publishing CVs and resumes

hAtom: for syndicated content, like blog posts

hReview: for embedding reviews, e.g., of products, services, events, businesses, etc.

hCard: for representing businesses, people, places, etc.

XFN (XHTML Friends Network): for representing human relationships. It is achieved by adding ‘rel’ attribute to Anchor tags. E.g. rel=”brother”>

XOXO (eXtensible Open XHTML Outlines): for outlines built from XHTML modularization

xFolk: for publication a collection of bookmarks

rel=”nofollow”: an HTML attribute to tell the Search Engines that the concerned hyperlink should not affect the ranking of the target link during indexing

rel=”tag”: to indicate that destination of the link is an author-directed “tag” for that page, which could be a keyword or a subject.

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