[uf-new] XFN - Professionals Network microformat

Guy Fraser gfraser at adaptavist.com
Thu Apr 26 06:06:45 PDT 2007

Frances Berriman wrote:
>>  I read on the microformats site that there are plans to develop XFN -
>> that's something I'd be extremely interested in as our company has 
>> numerous
>> clients who would benefit greatly from that. Please let me know how I 
>> can
>> contribute...
> What kind of contributions did you have in mind?

Hi Frances,

Having recently looked in to XFN (and uF's in general) in much more 
depth, I'm not even sure if I can answer your question. Allow me to 

<can typeof="worms" action="open">

1. XFN doesn't fit in to corporate environments...

XFN can't really be used in corporate environments - in such 
environments the Romantic category would instantly be removed (making it 
a derivative work - see 3) and the remaining categories don't provide 
enough relationships applicable to such environments (eg. client, 
supplier, etc) which are very difficult to add (see 3 and 4).

2. Issues with existing XFN rel's...

The "muse" should not be in the romantic category, full stop. I've seen 
numerous people asking about this on lists (here and elsewhere) and even 
in the wiki. Each time the simple fact that "muse" doesn't belong in the 
romantic category is dodged by a non-obvious definition of the romantic 
category (especially considering the other things in that category) or 
the topic gets changed to a discussion about "let's talk about the 
Romans...", etc. Why not just move "muse" to a more logical category? 
Again, that would be a derivative work (see 3).

There are some conflicts/overlap of existing uF rels with these: 
http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/#linkTypes (eg. 
"contact" is defined differently by this document and doesn't seem to 
match up with XFN's version).  Is WHATWG somehow related to XFN and 
microformats.org, which list of rel's takes precedence, who owns the 
copyright, etc? I'm pretty new to all this so I don't know how all these 
things fit together.

3. Licensing and patenting issues...

It is not clear _who_ owns the copyright or patent. Is it 
microformats.org, one of the authors, technorati, etc?

The talk of "royalty free" patenting does not guarantee free licenses to 
use the patent and makes corporates think "sting in the tail".

The cc-by-nd-* license which prevents derivative works, eg. you could 
not create mapping software as, based on XFN, it would be a derivative 
work and likewise you can't even remove the "romantic" category because 
that too would be a derivative work.

There is no guarantee that the owner will allow a derivative work. I'm 
not saying they would do such a thing, I'm just saying I cannot 
guarantee that they won't.

If I submit ideas that go in to XFN I might not be able to use those 
ideas again in the future because the owner might refuse my application 
for making a derivative work.

4. The community seems restrictive...

It's not possible to suggest new rel's without research and real-world 
examples but corporates tend not to adopt things unless there's 
something already in place.

To get corporates to try something, they need to see that others are 
trying it (generally speaking) and that there is some existing community 
drive behind it. But that's not possible because I can't submit ideas to 
XFN until after the corporates have tried it. It's a chicken-and-egg 

I can't make my own derivative work of XFN to try with some clients 
because a) they won't try it if it doesn't fit in with existing stuff 
and b) how do I get authorisation to make a derivative work, especially 
when I can't provide examples of real-world use...?

I'm wondering why the uF's aren't released under an open source license 
such as New BSD? Such a license would instantly allow me to safely play 
around with things in the wild, then come back saying "here's the 
results of my experiments" knowing that I could show results from 
clients who've participated in my experiments and that the rel's are 
fine tuned by real-world-use. I'd also know that my submissions wouldn't 
later be denied me should a license holder say "sorry, no derivs this 
time and you have to pay for a royalty free license".

5. I can't find answers to such questions...

I couldn't find anything on the wiki or the mail archives that explains 
the licensing situation, etc. Finding things on the wiki is a nightmare 
- unless it's linked from somewhere or you know it's there and what to 
search for, it seems the only way to find content is to hit the "random 
page" button endlessly until it appears?

I tried chatting on the IRC channel, but it keeps saying something about 
NickServ and telling me to read the MOTD which in turn contains no 
information (that I can see anyway) on how to use NickServ? I've not 
used IRC before (yeah, tragic, I know) so am stumped on this.

6. Summary...

With the licensing, patenting and conflicting versions of the same 
things are making me *very* hesitant to get involved.

When I was told about uF's, they were presented to me by friends as a 
community of developers coming up with ways to descrive things using 
semantically correct markup in a human friendly format. However, I'm 
getting an increasingly strong feeling of an environment which is very 
restrictive and divergent.


Sorry for the somewhat weird answer to your question, but from 
discussions I've had off-list it seems that many people are having the 
same feelings - the topic of adding new rel's to XFN, or even changing 
existing ones, highlights all of them.


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