ecommerce was Re: [uf-discuss] Principles of Microformats?

Mike Schinkel mikeschinkel at
Sat Dec 16 02:55:57 PST 2006

Benjamin West wrote:

> I'm only vaguely familiar with some e-commerce issues.  You 
> may find that the the early creators of microformats, because 
> of a relatively common background, may simply not have enough 
> exposure to this kind of thing.  

After all, they are only human (as am I.)

> I believe most of the earlier members of the community work for 
> search companies or other large websites, or even makers of web 
> browsers and web technology, and not many are familiar with 
> ecommerce.

As I wouldn't expect them to be either.

> I've also noticed that many of the more successful 
> technologies I can think of first implemented use cases with 
> user-centric data: people, places, things, times, and events. 

I don't know that to be true, but it certainly makes sense.

> That doesn't mean other use cases aren't of interest to the 
> community.  It simply means that time and energy are limited, 
> and people tend to spend most of it on things they are good at.

Correct. The problem (as I've seen it) is the vision and process for
microformats inhibits addressing those other issues.  Again, this is just an
observation, I am explicitly no longer advocating they change it.

> Can you elaborate a bit more on these kinds of use cases?  
> Are there some basic categorizations of ecommerce?  What are 
> the common things sites need to do? Where and how do they 
> need to talk with other systems?  High level answers are good.

Let me give you a real world example.  I used to run Xtras.Net
(  We sold products from companies like
and, but at certain points we dealt with well over 500
different vendors. Had we need able to manage the logistics, we could have
dealt with well 2500 vendors and our sales would have increased
significantly.  Realize that most of these vendors were "starving artists",
i.e. one or two man shops making less than US$100k/year in revenue.  They
certainly were not going to be buying any ecommerce infrastructure, but they
did update their websites whenever they had a new version.  

If an appropriate "semantic markup" could have been defined we might have
been able to get most of those vendors to apply it and then we could have
run crawlers to get a lot of our data. I actually had this vision in 1997
when I first heard of XML, but for many reasons was never able to make it a
reality (many reasons=lack of capital to fund the development :)  It would
be that much easier with semantic markup with today scripting languages and
other tools. 

But realize that Xtras.Net's business volume was a gnat on the back of a dog
in a car on a ship crossing the Pacific ocean when compared to the world
economy.  So take all the other gnats, and dogs and cars and ships and have
them all start creating their own industry specific semantic markup and BAM;
you got some serious eff-ing chaos, and I declare that will be a Bad
Thing(tm) for the web.

But again, I'm no longer advocating Microformats change. I'm working on some
other ideas.

-Mike Schinkel

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