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

Ara Pehlivanian ara.pehlivanian at gmail.com
Sun May 13 22:02:03 PDT 2007

On 5/13/07, Chris Messina <chris.messina at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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.

What is the assumption of the stagnation of semantic HTML relative to
microformats being based on? Were there any surveys conducted? People
polled? Or is this just based on a feeling?

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

I don't think the term has anything to do with it at all. Microformats
give quick, tangible returns upon implementation. When you implement
hCard, you reuse data you've already got in your page and suddenly
people can access and process that data in a systematic way.
Conversely, whether you write semantic HTML or not, browsers are so
forgiving that you'll hardly notice a thing right off the bat. That
isn't to say that semantic HTML isn't important. It's just a universe
apart from microformats in terms of immediate return on investment.

The reason why microformats have taken off is because there are apps
out there that directly consume them and won't work otherwise. The
bane of semantic HTML has always been the forgiving browser. So long
as apps aren't written to take full advantage of semantic markup, the
problem will continue to exist. POSH or not. Because ultimately, what
convinces a developer/designer is seeing the immediate result of their

The paradox is in the fact that the creators of the apps that take
advantage of semantic markup are the developers who need convincing
themselves. Those familiar with semantic HTML know how to take
advantage of it via CSS and JavaScript. Those unfamiliar don't know,
and therefore don't see the need.

This is why the process of evangelizing people in the use of semantic
markup is so slow and painstaking. It's also why microformats can't be
used as a comparison because the two are universes apart when it comes
to the apps that consume them.

> Therefore, for pure marketing and attention reasons, we decided that
> coming up with less of a mouthful

With all due respect, the idea that "semantic HTML" is a mouthful is
downright patronizing, for those who already know of it, as well as
for those whom we're trying to reach.

> 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

But POSH /is/ semantic HTML, and is therefore open-ended, with a poor
vocabulary of semantic objects. Stating that one should use POSH won't
change any of that. If anything, throwing a new acronym into the mix,
in my opinion, will only confuse people and fragment any ground the
semantic markup movement has already made. That's because, not
everyone who sees a new acronym will read up on it (as we're already
swimming in a sea of them).

> 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).

The very fact that web developers and designers have begun to move
away from using presentational elements and tables for layout is due
to the focused effort of people in the community targeting these
particular issues. What's to keep the community from targeting the
semantics of HTML? I don't think a new acronym is going to help do it
(like I said before I think it's just going to cause confusion). If
anything, it's just a question of more hard work on the part of the
community to get the word out that there are semantics involved in
creating markup, and that there are major benefits to using them. The
key is in teaching designers/developers on how to take advantages of
semantic markup.

> 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?

This is exactly where the confusion will emerge. Developers and
designers will be under the impression that POSH is some sort of
wizz-bang technology when it is just a rebranding of something that's
been around since the stone age. What we'll lose is ground.


Ara Pehlivanian

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