[microformats-discuss] microformats vs. plain XML formats

Tantek Ç elik tantek at cs.stanford.edu
Wed Jul 13 05:08:10 PDT 2005

On 7/12/05 2:12 PM, "Joshua Porter" <porter at bokardo.com> wrote:

> Is it fair to say that microformats are no further along in auto-
> discovery than are standalone XML formats?

I'm not sure that "auto-discovery" as you use it means the same thing as
others use it to mean.  It is a bit of an overloaded term, and as such, a
specific use-case would help with understanding what you mean.

> I ask because I'm confused about the "support" of microformats. I
> understand that microformats are "supported" by browsers in the sense
> that browsers read them as XHTML.

Yes, microformats are built from XHTML building blocks, and thus have all
the support that those have, which is a level of support far above "plain"

In addition, microformats can be added to web pages and still have those web
pages *validate*, something which is very important to modern web designers.

"plain XML" on the other hand, cannot be added to an XHTML web page and have
it still validate, short of doing nasty things like CDATA/escaping the
markup, or putting it into comments.  Both of which have already been
covered for all the problems they have.

> But that's not really doing
> anything with the semantics we've added to our markup. (we might as
> well be writing in any arbitrary format).

Not at all.  XHTML has numerous predefined semantics.  "plain XML" has none
(except perhaps the xml:lang attribute).

> Taken further, it seems to me that for anything to be done with
> microformats, our UAs will need to be updated in some fashion.

No.  *could be* updated, yes.

*need to be* updated? No.  For example, tons have been done with styling
microformats with built-in CSS support, utilizing microformats with
favelets/bookmarklets, Grease Monkey plugins etc.  None of which required
updating the browser.

Similarly, you can subscribe to hCalendar in existing calendaring
applications like Apple iCal and Mozilla Sunbird, without *any* updates to
those applications.

This is one of the advantages of basing a microformat standard on well
adopted other standards.  Instant interoperability.

>  Of  
> course, Technorati is supporting some of them already....but we don't
> want something that will be supported by only one vendor

Hence Technorati has from day 1 developed microformats as open standards on
an open wiki, open for anyone to view (and edit/contribute to).

Note that this is in *stark* contrast to *numerous* other "standards"
efforts which are typically developed either behind closed doors of a
paid-membership only committee, or developed on a closed mailing list, or a
closed wiki, or perhaps just in the closed-mind of a singular blow-hard

> ...and  
> presumably Technorati would support another XML format, too.

Not necessarily.  A big concern on the part of Technorati (and any other
search implementer) is data quality, signal to noise.  As such if XML (like
most) formats encourage invisible metadata, they will be of significantly
lower utility to Technorati than formats that simply markup already visible

> Thus, microformats, to me, sound like just as much work as would be a
> separate format (like RSS).

What application / site are you looking at adding microformats too?

> Indeed, many of the microformats are
> based on living formats written in plaintext or xml. So some are
> already developed...like iCal,

Non-trivial to author.

> xCal

Tried and failed already.  Effectively zero uptake on the Web.

> and OPML.

<sigh />

A totally unnecessary reinvention of <ol><li><a href>.

Those whose ignore standards are doomed to reinvent them.

> Therefore, I wonder if there are some applications for which a
> separate format are better suited,

Perhaps non-web applications?

> and presumably some applications
> for which microformats are better suited.

Anything that involves publishing content on the Web.

> However, I'm hearing this push about microformats...which is all well
> and good...but I don't know, as a developer, where I should *spend my
> time*.

What do you develop Josh?  That will probably impact where you spend your

> A possible issue to address would be: should I provide OPML or XOXO?

If you are publishing on the web, XOXO.

If not, use whatever outline format is the most convenient (cheapest to
implement) for you and your actual use cases.



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