[uf-discuss] Microformats to interlink desparate services

Ben Ward lists at ben-ward.co.uk
Thu Feb 23 08:32:00 PST 2006

Hi all,

I'd like to float an idea that I believe Microformats could play a
large part in.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a rather rough article on my blog [1] about a
way for people to host personal 'profile' information as part of their
own blog/webspace/etc. Any service or web application could request an
individual's profile information based on a URI.

Firstly, such a profile would contain contact information,
homepage(s), locations and other such fields that services like
Flickr, and older applications such as messageboards all request when
you register.

The first use-case is that rather than enter my details on a dozen
different sites (and have to maintain them all separately when I move
house), each service could just be given my URL and autofill as much
of the information as I provide. It would reduce hassle and time taken
to register for new services. What's more, this information can then
be automatically updated in the service when I update the profile on
my own site.

At the moment, this is hCard, perhaps with an additional pointer to
locate the hCard from a homepage (directing from
"http://ben-ward.co.uk" to  "http://ben-ward.co.uk/about/", for

The second set of information I want to contain in a profile concerns
other services which I'm a member of.

Generally speaking, modern web services have a screenname, a personal
URL and a feed. But, there is no way of knowing that "BenWard" on
Flickr and "BenWard" on Upcoming.org are the same person. Furthermore,
there's no way of knowing that "BenWard" on Delicious is the same
person as "Shovel" on Last.FM. This profile file should therefore list
the common attributes of the standalone services, such that data from
all the separate services I use could be aggregated.

Not only could I aggregate disparate data, but the services I'm a
member at could use the profile to link to other content created by
the me.

To remove the need for disparate services to know each other by name,
each service listed in the profile would be tagged with interoperable
terms: Flickr tagged "Photographs", Delicious, Magnolia, Yahoo
MyWeb2.0 tagged "Bookmarks", Last.FM and Pandora both tagged "Music",
and so forth. As such, any service could include related content from
any other service based on a common tag, and the feed URI provided in
the profile.

This second part isn't hCard and if other people agree that this is a
good idea, it's the second part that I'd be interested to develop. (I
can't think of a clever name for it, maybe "hWebServices" or something
else that's, y'know, actually good).

The final part of my pre-draft was to specify a mandatory location for
this information. When I bodged together my blog post on the matter I
called it "profile.xml", believing that some invented XML format could
contain all the information. It was afterwards that I realised the
obvious use for hCard and that actually, presenting such a profile as
HTML has a lot of merit.

Perhaps, rather than require it to be a fixed file location (which may
not play well for lots of users), the profile could be pointed to by a
<link rel="" href="" /> on the first page served up by the person's
URI. That way it could be embedded into existing "about me" pages that
exist all over the web and could already contain an hCard.

The final thing, is that I don't know if this idea is new. If it's
come up before and everybody laughed, I apologise. I'm also acutely
aware that using the word "profile" in the context of HTML is a
potential cause for confusion, but I'm stuck for better terminology.
Feel free to swap it for something else.

Thank you,


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