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vCard suggestions

As a result of experience using hCard to markup people, organizations, and contact information in general on real world websites, we have discovered a few aspects of RFC2426 vCard that could be improved. Thus we are documenting suggestions for improving vCard here as we find them, organized by RFC2426 properties, with a "new" section for new properties.

Tantek Çelik
Andy Mabbett
This page may be referenced as

Suggestions for Existing Properties

Suggestions for improvement could include new features and other such more major changes to the specification, organized under headings that reflect RFC 2426 vCard section numbers and heading. For documentation of errors, corrections, errata for vCard, please see vcard-errata.

TEL Type Definition

See: RFC2426 section 3.3.1

Note: it might be a good idea to look at the proposed registry for "tel:" URI parameters; especially the "phone-context" URI parameter, since it tries to solve a similar problem. (per e-mail, 2008-01-08).

EMAIL Type Definition

See: RFC2426 section 3.3.2

URL Type Definition

See: RFC2426 section 3.6.8

Suggestions for New Sub-properties


"N" (See RFC2426 section 3.1.2) sub-property; for people, whose given-name is not stated (e.g. "A. N. Other", whose given name might be, say, "Adrian" or "Nigel"); to allow values like:

   initials:    A. N.
   family-name: Other

instead of the more contrived:

   given-name:  A. N.
   family-name: Other

Also, for people whose given-name and initials are given:

   given-name:      Theophilus
   middle-initials: P.
   family-name:     Wildebeest


   initials:       J.
   given-name:     Paul
   family-name:    Getty


"ADR" (See RFC2426 section 3.2.1) sub-property; for people (e.g. in proposed moon base, Mars expedition) or places (e.g. lunar crater, Martian mountain) off-planet.


"ADR" (See RFC2426 section 3.2.1) sub-property; self-explanatory.


"ADR" (See RFC2426 section 3.2.1) sub-property; for people on, say, ships, live-aboard boats, oil rigs, and even space vehicles (e.g. the ISS)


"GEO" (See RFC2426 section 3.4.2) sub-property; aka "altitude" or "depth".


"GEO" (See RFC2426 section 3.4.2) sub-property; for coordinates using non-WGS84 schema (terrestrial and for other bodies)


Some (e.g. note) if not all properties should have a "language" attribute, similar to lang in HTML so that agents can determine how to render, and if applicable, pronounce, them.

Suggestions for New Properties

Alternative dates

For historic figures, where no birth and/ or death dates are known a "flourished" date, or "flourished from"+"flourished to" pair, would be useful.

In genealogy, some people have no recorded birth date, but their "baptised" date is known.


aka "date of death"


See gender-examples and genealogy-brainstorming; note also Google search for "vCard.Gender" .

Global Location Number

Global Location Number (GLN) - generally used in electronic commerce transactions [1]. Andy Mabbett 06:43, 31 Aug 2007 (PDT)

Languages spoken

Per FajRo

Preferred method of contact

Telephone, cellphone, fax, post , e-mail, IM, SMS, IRC, Twitter, etc.

Per FajRo

Subject differentiator


Suggestions for handling encodings

The vCard standard specifies that US-ASCII is assumed to be the encoding in the absence of a MIME content type header or a CHARSET parameter that indicates otherwise. This was an unfortunate choice. vCard .vcf files stored on a local filesystem do not contain a MIME header and the only way to reliably use an encoding other than ASCII is to tag each field with the "CHARSET=" label. This makes the vCard stream more complicated than necessary. This could be simplified by a revision of the standard that specifies UTF-8 as the default encoding. This could work safely with existing vCard .vcf files, which do not contain a MIME content header. The first vCard VERSION field would be the same encoded as either ASCII or UTF-8, so readers could easily determine which encoding to default to.

Furthermore, those creating vCard readers should be encouraged to support vCard .vcf files that begin with a UTF-8 BOM sequence. If the first three bytes of the file are 0xEF 0xBB 0xBF, the text file is UTF-8 encoded, and the vCard reader should assume UTF-8 is the default. Unfortunately many readers today fail to recognize the UTF-8 BOM and view the file as a corrupt vCard.

Suggestions made elsewhere

Attribute Exchange

Instant Messaging


Extensions to WebDAV (CardDAV)

defines extensions to the Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) protocol to specify a standard way of accessing, managing, and sharing contact information based on the vCard format. This document defines the "addressbook-access" feature of CardDAV.

XEP-0154: User Profile

XEP-0154: User Profile specifies how to represent and manage profile data about IM users and other Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) entities using the XMPP Data Forms extension. It has a far greater number of properties than vCard (possibly more than vCard will ever need), and reinvents and re-names some of the latter's properties, but may have some attributes worth considering for vCard.

FOAF Vocabulary Specification


On 2006-11-24, Paul Hoffman of the Internet Mail Consortium, responsible for the development and promotion the vCard standard, wrote in response to an e-mail from Andy Mabbett informing him of this web page:

There has been almost no interest in revising the vCard standard. This is due to lack of momentum, not the lack of good suggestions.

However, see events/2007-09-18-calconnect-vcard-workshop for an event with vCard modification on the agenda.

See Also

Keywords: vcard, ietf, rfc, standard

vcard-suggestions was last modified: Wednesday, December 31st, 1969