Just when you thought you wouldn’t have to read another “year in review” blog post…
2005 was an incredible year for the growth of microformats, in terms of specification, implementation, and overall awareness. The microformats.org community has produced some incredible results in just over six months of existence.
Simple microformats have found their way into several major search engines. Rel-license is indexed by both Yahoo and Google to help find content based on the page’s copyright giving another orthogonal key to search on. Vote-links showed their importance at the end of 2004 during the elections, and are indexed by Technorati to determine whether links from blogs are endorsements or not. Rel-tag and rel-directory are other simple microformats that have contributed to the building and indexing of folksonomies. XFN is now just over a two years old, and 2005 saw the emergence of the second (in addition to rubhub.com) XFN indexer and search engine: xhtmlfriends.net. XFN has seen a proliferation of uses throughout the web in 2005. Other simple microformats have been proposed, including one to determine when the last time a page was modified.
As for compound microformats, there have been three big ones that have been documented and have seen success. These are hCard, hCalendar, hReview. hReview is used to create reviews of movies, books, restaurants and many other things. Kritx.com indexes and aggregates hReviews and Yahoo UK uses them for their movie reviews. hCard is based on the vCard spec and has seen explosive growth this past year. Bloggers have used hCard to mark-up their contact information, but even more main-stream, Universities have marked-up their directories with hCards, Avon edited a single template and over 40,000 of their representative’s contact information is now easily machine readable. Eventful.com has published over 100,000 venues with hCards and even more events with hCalendar. hCalendar is a representation of iCalendar and allows for events to easily be extracted and imported into most calendaring programs. As bloggers talk about events and encode them in hCalendar, it allows events to be searched and aggregated across the entire web, as well as opening an RSS reader for news, today you might open an hCalendar reader to gather events. Eventful isn’t the only place to find hCalendar content, Upcoming.org, Laughing Squid and others all contribute to building a distributed calendar.
In 2005 several more compound microformats have begun, including hAtom and xFolk. hAtom allows you to encode a feed into your (X)HTML, so it is one and the same thing. xFolk is an open social bookmarking standard that would make it possible to easily collect social bookmark data and remix it to invent new services. Research is proceeding on a resume format, a citation microformat to describe publications, references, bibliographies, and a listing microformat to describe items for sale, for rent, or items people would like to buy.
As more and more companies add basic information about their business, search engines will be able to truly search based on more specific criteria such as zip code. Right now you search for “Pizza 63101” and that will return all search results that contain the term “pizza” in the “63101” zip code. Now with microformats you could limit the term “63101” to ONLY the postal-code property and “pizza” only to the FN,N,CATEGORY, or ORG property (that would stop all the buildings on “Pizza Street” from appearing in the results). Next, it would be possible to further restrict the restaurants to only those with associated hReviews of 3.5 stars or higher. Finally, if the site has encoded any information with hCalendar, you could determine their opening/closing hours any special deals and offers for a given day.
2005 has laid the groundwork for all of this to begin, as a community we should be proud of what we have done, and excited about where it is going. As microformats grow, 2006 and beyond look very exciting!