[uf-discuss] Regarding POSH and misuse of the microformats logo

Chris Messina chris.messina at gmail.com
Sun May 13 20:36:10 PDT 2007

On 5/7/07, Keith Alexander <k.j.w.alexander at gmail.com> wrote:
> I'm of the opinion that "Semantic HTML" is a perfectly fine term for
> Semantic HTML, and I'm a little sceptical of the utility of a new
> acronym for it. If there's a problem with people still not understanding
> semantic html, either the arguments for it aren't being made clear
> enough and loud enough, or maybe the arguments simply don't chime with
> html authors ' perceptions of what they are doing.

It's not like we weren't aware of the phrase "semantic html" when we
went into discussions about POSH (obviously, as it's part of the new

It isn't that the arguments aren't clear enough or loudly enough;
we've had a good 4-5 years of tooting the proverbial semantic horn.
The problem is that, in a lesser amount of time, microformats have
totally taken off and captured people's imaginations whereas semantic
HTML, the parent container of microformats, has relatively stagnated.

Why is this? Why is the new "microformats" term more successful than
"semantic HTML"?

Well, right or wrong, we felt that 1) microformats have an aura of
"cool" to them and 2) they have a pretty process for getting involved.
 Plenty of folks have been pushing semantic markup for some time;
fewer think that semantic markup is "cool".

Therefore, for pure marketing and attention reasons, we decided that
coming up with less of a mouthful would give us a chance to redefine
what getting involved in the broader semantics movement would look
like -- and would give us a way to package the concept as being on par
with, or even as coming before, the microformats effort. Moreover,
suggesting that people merely use "semantic HTML" is a bit misleading
and open-ended, in that HTML itself has a poor vocabulary of semantic
objects -- hence microformats and the work to codify some common
classnames in HTML5 (I tend to disagree with HTML5's efforts though,
and think that classnames should remain undefined, and let community
adoption define their use and/or reuse.)

POSH is the perfect anecdote to what I might call semantic malaise,
where web developers and designers would love to go semantic, but
apart from moving away from presentational elements and using tables
for layouts, there hasn't been much beyond that that offers a way to
"level up", whereas with microformats, there's a clear process (think
of hCard as being a level-80 microformat, etc).

Anyway, love it or hate, use it or dismiss, I intend to base a lot of
my upcoming promotional efforts on promoting POSH and microformats in
tandem... with the limited success that "semantic HTML" has had in
recent years and with the onslaught of closed web technologies like
SilverLight, Apollo and JavaFX picking up steam, what's there to lose
at this point? We've got to do something other than just hope that
somehow, someday "semantic" will click in people's head as a glorious
AHA and as the key to the future!


Chris Messina
Citizen Provocateur &
  Open Source Advocate-at-Large
Work: http://citizenagency.com
Blog: http://factoryjoe.com/blog
Cell: 412 225-1051
Skype: factoryjoe
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