Blog Archive for May, 2009

Yahoo Placemaker, Optimus update, and one click microformats validator

The recent microformats momentum from the introduction of the value-class-pattern and Google & Yelp’s support continues with the launch of Yahoo Placemaker™, an update to Optimus, the open source microformats validator, and a browser button that makes it easy to one-click validate your microformats.

Yahoo Placemaker Beta supports geo and adr microformats

Congratulations to Yahoo on their recent launch of ! Yahoo Placemaker extracts locations marked up with the and microformats from web pages. See the Yahoo Placemaker documentation for details.

Optimus updated to v0.8 and supports value-title

, the open source microformats transformer that also happens to do an excellent job as a validator, has been updated to version 0.8.

Optimus v0.8 supports the recently developed ‘s “value-title” functionality. Optimus now also has its own twitter account that you can follow, . For microupdates on microformats in general, follow the twitter.

Get the Optimus microformats validator browser button

It’s hard to believe some of the first validation browser buttons* (for HTML, CSS, and links) were written over ten years ago, and now there’s one more:

> Optimus microformats validator

In most browsers, simply drag and drop the above “> Optimus microformats validator” link to your “Links Toolbar” / “Bookmarks Bar” / “Favorites Bar”. The Technorati Browser Buttons page has good additional installation instructions for browser buttons for various browsers.

Then go to any of your pages with microformats, click the newly created “> Optimus microformats validator” button in your browser toolbar, and read the validator report for suggested fixes and improvements to your microformats markup.

With both Google and Yahoo now indexing microformats like and , use the Optimus microformats validator to debug your microformats. Additional tools can be found on the .

*Browser buttons were originally called or . However, Google’s documentation calls them “Browser Buttons” which sounds much friendlier and free of tech-jargon origins.

In Search of Microformats

It’s been a very busy week for users of microformats. We made our announcement of the important new value-class-pattern over the weekend. That’s the culmination of a huge amount of brainstorming and community effort, and offers great improvements to using microformats accessibly and in international contexts.

Then since Tuesday, things have gone stratospheric. Google announced support for microformats right in their search engine, through a new ‘Rich Snippets’ feature, exposing hReview and hCard content within search results for many millions of users.

Rich Snippets give users convenient summary information about their search results at a glance. We are currently supporting data about reviews and people. When searching for a product or service, users can easily see reviews and ratings, and when searching for a person, they’ll get help distinguishing between people with the same name. It’s a simple change to the display of search results, yet our experiments have shown that users find the new data valuable—if they see useful and relevant information from the page, they are more likely to click through.

Kavi Goel, Ramanathan V. Guha, and Othar Hansson in the Google Webmaster blog.

It’s a big day. hCards and hReviews are already published in huge quantities all over the web (see lists of sites that publish hCard and hReview), but this is the biggest user-base so far to benefit from the consumption of microformats in an application.

It’s again wonderful to see microformats embraced as a way to enhance user experience and to see it shipped to such a large audience, so congratulations to Kavi, Ramanathan, Othar and their Google team on the launch.

Initially Rich Snippets are only displayed for a handful of domains, so if you’re an hReview or hCard publisher, add yourself to Google’s waiting list now!. And if not already listed, update our examples in-the-wild wiki pages too (hCard, hReview).

If you’re a developer new to microformats we highly recommend you refer to the large set of code examples on our wiki, which will help you get started: hCard examples, hReview examples. There’s also full hCard and hReview documentation.

Finally, if you need help checking your code, check the debugging tools wiki page for validators, linters and debuggers.

It’s fantastic to see microformats applications hit such a large search audience. From the earliest experimental index at Technorati, to Yahoo putting microformats into mainstream search with SearchMonkey in March of last year; we’ve come a long, long way, and it’s looking great. With Google adding support for two of the major microformats, it really underlines structured data as a concrete foundation of the open web, and modern web development in general.

And yet more! An immediate benefit to everyone from the Rich Snippets release: Yelp have added hReview and hCards to all of their listings. You never need copy and paste a restaurant address by hand again!

Value Class Pattern

The value-class-pattern solves two of the three most challenging issues that microformats have encountered in their entire history: accessibility and localization.

After many long months of focused iterating (repeatedly researching, brainstorming, testing, documenting) led by Ben Ward, the is ready to use and support.

Publish and implement

Several publishers have already started using the value-class-pattern, including this blog, and some implementations have already started supporting it as well.

Everyone who publishes content marked up with microformats or develops microformats implementations such as parsers and authoring tools should take a close look at supporting the value-class-pattern in the content they are publishing and the tools they are implementing. In particular:

  • If your implementation parses , , or , please implement the value-class-pattern in your parser, test it with the examples given both in the spec and the growing list of value-class-pattern examples in the wild, and add it to the list of value-class-pattern implementations.
  • If your site publishes hCalendar, hReview, or hAtom, please use the value-class-pattern for your dates and times, and add your site to the growing list of value-class-pattern examples in the wild.
  • If your implementation generates hCalendar, hReview, or hAtom, please generate your dates and times marked up with the value-class-pattern, and add your implementation to the list of value-class-pattern implementations.

If and when you encounter any issues or have feedback regarding the value-class-pattern, please add them to the value-class-pattern-issues and value-class-pattern-feedback pages respectively.

Major resolutions and minor revisions

The value-class-pattern has greatly addressed accessibility and authoring issues across several microformats, in particular for typical uses of dates and times. However, there are still a few open issues on specific microformats for which we are still exploring better (more semantic, more accessible) solutions, in particular the microformat (and property of ) when specified as a single hyperlink or abbreviation, and hCalendar’s dtend property when specifying a whole date (rather than a specific datetime).

With the value-class-pattern providing solutions to two out of the three biggest microformats challenges (the last of the three to be addressed in its own blog post), and resolutions to the remaining substantial open issues (e.g. as mentioned) on hCard, hCalendar, hReview, and hAtom, we will work on 1.0.1 revisions that:

  • incorporate said resolved substantial issues to date
  • require support of the value-class-pattern
  • are edited for broader understandability and usability.

The editors of all drafts, in development, and future compound microformats should also require support of the value-class-pattern in order to encourage better accessibility in content that is marked up with microformats.


Thanks to those in the broader accessibility and internationalization communities that have kept up with their constructive criticisms, suggestions, test cases, testing, test results documentation, feedback, and overall participation. Your efforts have contributed to major improvements in microformats, and we could not have done it without you and your expertise. In particular:

  • The original Web Standards Project article hAccessibility by Bruce Lawson and James Craig which provided both detailed documentation of real world concrete problems that were/are being experienced due to some uses of the abbr element with microformats, as well as several ideas for alternatives to explore. Many of those ideas formed the basis for what the microformats community spent many months investigating in depth, testing, iterating, evolving and eventually narrowing down and refining into what made it into the value-class-pattern (e.g. value-title in particular).
  • Everyone who has contributed documentation of patterns, issues, brainstorms, opinions regarding the abbr element, dates, datetimes, , assistive technology, , etc. to the microformats wiki. All these additions to our broader body of knowledge helped shape and refine the value-class-pattern you see today.
  • In particular I want to thank James Craig for the many hours he spent extensively testing and documenting of several alternatives with screen readers.
  • Personally I have very much appreciated Derek Featherstone‘s optimism regarding microformats and accessibility, consistent in-person encouragement to me and others to keep working at it, and continued positive reminding to keep in mind the broader community of those that use the Web.
  • Finally, thanks to all of the authors, designers, and developers supporting microformats, especially those who continued to do so when well aware of accessiblity and other open issues, for their patience and for never giving up.