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First time visitors, see the Introduction to Microformats page first.

What are microformats?

Launch Definition

The current definition on the home page says:

Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards.

originally written by Dan Cederholm with help from Tantek Çelik for the launch of microformats.org on June 20th, 2005.

From The Mailing List

Microformats are simple conventions for embedding semantics in HTML to enable decentralized development.

from someone on the microformats-discuss mailing list. Please link/cite if you know the origin of this.

More Specifically From The Mailing List

More precisely, microformats can be defined as:

  simple conventions
  for embedding semantic markup

      for a specific problem domain

  in human-readable (X)HTML/XML documents, Atom/RSS feeds, and "plain" XML

      that normalize existing content usage patterns
      using brief, descriptive class names
      often based on existing interoperable standards

  to enable decentralized development

      of resources, tools, and services

from someone(s) on the microformats-discuss mailing list. Please link/cite if you know the origin of this.

(I'm pretty sure Ernie kicked off this particular definition, and I think helped a little, but I don't remember the specifics. -Tantek)

http://microformats.org/discuss/mail/microformats-discuss/2005-September/000922.html by Dr. Ernie Prabhakar

Chris Messina

Microformats are simple codes that you can use to identify specific kinds of data, like people or events, in your webpages.

Tantek Çelik

Microformats are the way to publish and share information on the web with higher fidelity.

For example, if a company wanted their contact information to be easily found and shared, they would publish it with hCard. Similarly if an organization is planning a series of events and wants more people to know about them and add them to their calendars, then they would publish their events listing with hCalendar. For advocacy groups, whenever they take a position on some political leader, some piece of legislation etc., if they wanted their evaluations/reviews/ratings of those people/laws to be more easily found and passed around, they would publish such opinions with hReview. For all of these, to make it easier, publishers can use tools and services that support microformats.

The key here is that microformats are simple/easy enough that the any organizations own web authors/designers can easily add them in themselves. Adding microformats is easier than publishing an RSS feed for example. You don't have to be a programmer. Anyone with decent (X)HTML+CSS authoring/writing skills can use microformats. Pretty much anyone who is literate can be taught how to author HTML+CSS, and thus microformats makes use of very widely available skill sets.

From an IRC conversation 2006-06-06 which helped "knowprose" grok microformats. Update 2006-06-07: knowprose's blog post Making Sense of Microformats: Have Data, Will Find It.

microformats are carefully designed (X)HTML class names that extend the semantics of (X)HTML and enable authors to publish higher semantic fidelity content such as people, events, reviews, etc.

From an IRC conversation 2006-07-28 with tcaspers on irc.freenode.net/#wasp.

Drew McLellan

Microformats are a way of attaching extra meaning to the information published on a web page. This extra semantic richness works alongside the information already presented, and can be used for the benefit of people and computers. This is mostly done through adding special pre-defined names to the class attribute of existing XHTML markup.

from an IRC conversation

Aaron Gustafson

Simply put: "Microformats are a codification of convention." -- Aaron Gustafson

Alok Jain

microformats are evolving frameworks for how to present commonly used data items. For e.g. hCard microformat provides framework to capture a person's details First, middle, last name,company, contact info etc.

In my view this is doing two things:

  • a Bringing some amount of standardization to commonly used data sets, which can lead to several benefits towards data retreival
  • a Bringing an implicit meta data structure which again can be used to fetch informaiton at more granular level. SO in above example one could fetch just the company name, even thought there is not meta data around company name

Alok Jain

Dave Sanford

Chris asked me to contribute my 'definition,' although I refer to it as a distillation:

“Microformats are a way of identifying and labeling classes of commonly used data that make it easier for humans or computers to locate or distribute such information on websites.”

Andy Mabbett

Here's my re-write of the current opening blurb, from:

Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards.


Microformats are a way of adding simple markup to human-readable data items such as events, contact details or locations, on web pages, so that the information in them can be extracted by software and indexed, searched for, saved, cross-referenced or combined.

Which can be followed by:

More technically, they are items of semantic markup, using just standard (X)HTML with a set of common class-names. They are open and available, freely, for anyone to use.


  • Start with "Microformats are"
  • Mention web pages
  • Say what purpose microformats serve
  • Use plain language

Guillaume Lebleu

Microformats are simple standardized annotations of content available on the Web that provide a practical solution today to more productive and decentralized Web-based information search and sharing.

In other words, Microformats allow you today to copy/paste information from a Web page, for instance someone's contact information from their blog to your address book, instead of manually retyping it. Eventually, microformats will allow anyone to make the information they publish easily sharable and searchable (products, events, resume, etc.) without having to duplicate and maintain up-to-date their data in centralized databases.


A microformat is a specific collection of names, values, and accompanying structure defined through rigorous market research intended to consider pervasive use of semantic html that increases data fidelity in HTML-borne data widely distributed on the web.

Microformats are more than one of these, eg "hcard and hcal are microformats."


microformats are semantics with momentum, a codification of what everyone did anyway. They are what works, written down.

Add Yours Here

microformats are...(insert your definition here)

written by You.

Note: feedback on the existing definition or those on this page can be found in the definition-feedback. Please add feedback there (rather than inline here).

See Also