microformats vs. semantic XHTML (was Re: [uf-discuss] Comments from IBM/Lotus rep about Microformats)

Tantek Ç elik tantek at cs.stanford.edu
Tue Dec 12 08:17:17 PST 2006

Mike, Ben, a gentle reminder, please update the subject line when the
subject changes :)

On 12/11/06 8:45 PM, "Benjamin West" <bewest at gmail.com> wrote:

> On 12/11/06, Mike Schinkel <mikeschinkel at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Benjamin West wrote:
>>> I'm not quite sure what you mean here.  Is there a difference
>>> between lowercase microformats and uppercase microformats?
>> lowercase microformats = unofficial semantic markup embedded in HTML
>> uppercase microformats = "Official" Microformat
> That's the first I've heard of this usage.

Same here.

> I think what I'm hearing
> (and agree with) is a need for a term that describes the product of
> semantic markup techniques in a general way. Lots of people are
> already doing this, and don't need any official body to bless them.

semantic XHTML (OR semantic HTML)

This is well-used well-adopted pre-existing term and there is no need to
invent a new term to mean the same thing.

> Microformats (any casing) would be a subset of these products that are
> blessed by pervasive use across the web.  I'm hesitant to pick out
> such a name, lest I choose badly (eg AJAX).  I'm happy to let the
> market pick that name (eg I don't think anyone should deliberately
> pick it out.), but at the same time, I'm hesitant to let the term
> microformats be applied to general applications of general techniques.

I'm frankly not ok with this.

This is one of the reasons why I have avoided capitalizing the term
"microformats" everywhere it is used.  There is no "capital" variant.  There
is just "microformats", as has been defined.

And just as "squares" are "quadrilaterals" with additional constraints,
microformats are semantic (X)HTML with additional constraints.

In particular, the difference between the specific semantic XHTML technique
that is 

"using semantic class names, ids, rel/rev values"

and a 


Is that *anyone* can make up semantic class names, id, rel/rev values, for
any reason in any way, and in fact, modern web designers and information
architects were doing so *long* before microformats was even coined as a
term.  Indeed, it was precisely this pre-existing behavior that inspired me
to first even dare to propose microformats as a refinement thereof.

A "microformat" is such because it is a use of semantic class names, etc.

1. Are designed according to microformat principles [1]

2. Follow the microformats process [2]

[1] http://microformats.org/wiki/microformats#the_microformats_principles

[2] http://microformats.org/wiki/process

Without those, all you have is semantic XHTML.

I have on my to-do list to better document the principles, more thoroughly,
etc., as well as update the process per what we have learned the past six
months or so.  Perhaps this holiday season I will have to spend some time
catching up on this given the extent of this thread.


I will note that for now, much deeper explanations of the principles are
actually presented in the numerous podcasts about microformats that have
been published:


I encourage everyone who has participated in this thread to listen to them.



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