Nine years ago we launched microformats.org with a basic premise: that it is possible to express meaning on the web in HTML in a simple way—far simpler than the complex alternatives (XML) being promoted by mature companies and standards organizations alike.
Today microformats.org continues to be a gathering place for those seeking simpler ways to express meaning in web pages, most recently the growing IndieWeb movement.
Looking back nine years ago, none of the other alternatives promoted in the 2000s (even by big companies like Google and Yahoo) survive to this day in any meaningful way:
- Google Base
- Google Data
- Yahoo’s CommonTag.org
- too many XML approaches to count
From this experience, we conclude that what large companies support (or claim to prefer) is often a trailing indicator (at best).
Large companies tend to promote more complex solutions, perhaps because they can afford the staff, time, and other resources to develop and support complex solutions. Such approaches fundamentally lack empathy for independent developers and designers, who don’t have time to keep up with all the complexity.
If there’s one value that’s at the heart of microformats’ focus and continued evolution of simplicity, it is that empathy for independent developers and designers, for small consulting shops, for curious hobbyists who are most enabled and empowered by the simplest possible solutions to problems.
We now know that no amount of large company marketing and evangelism can make up for a focus on ever simpler solutions which take less time to learn, use, and reliably maintain. As long as we focus on that, we will create better solutions.
Speaking of taking less time, we’ve learned some community lessons about that too. Perhaps the most important is that as a community we are far more efficiently productive using just IRC and the wiki, than any amount of use of email. In fact, the microformats drafts that were developed wtih the most email (e.g. hAudio) turned out to be the hardest to follow and discuss (too many long emails), and sadly ended up lacking the simplicity that real world publishers wanted (e.g. last.fm).
Email tends to bias design and discussions towards those who have more time to read and write long emails, and (apparently) enjoy that for its own sake, than those who want to quickly research & brainstorm, and get to actually creating, building, and deploying things with microformats.
Thus we’re making these changes effective today:
- IRC for all microformats discussions, whether research, questions, or brainstorming
- email only for occasional announcements and to direct people to IRC.
- wiki for capturing questions, brainstorming, conclusions, and different points of view
We’re going to update the site to direct all discussion (e.g links) to the IRC channel accordingly.
Hope to see you there: #microformats on irc.freenode.net
Upgrading to microformats2
Over the past few years microformats2 has proven itself in practice, with numerous sites both publishing and consuming, several open source parsing libraries, and a growing test suite. All the lessons learned from the evolution from original microformats, from RDFa, and from microdata have been incorporated into microformats2 which is now the simplest to both publish and parse.
It’s time to throw the switch and upgrade everything to microformats2. This means three things:
First, we’re starting by upgrading the links on the microformats.org home page to point to the microformats2 drafts, which are ready for use.
We’ll be incrementally upgrading the markup of the microformats.org site itself to use microformats2 markup.
Second, if you publish any kind of semantic information, start upgrading your web pages to microformats2 across the board.
If you’re concerned about what search engines claim to support, there are two approaches to choose from:
- Know that search engines are a trailing indicator, and as microformats2 usage grows, they’ll index it as well.
- Or: Use one classic microformat (supported by all major search engines) at top of your page, e.g. on the
<body>, in addition to your microformats2 markup throughout your pages. Search engines only really care to summarize the primary topic or purpose of a web page in their “rich snippets” or “cards”, and thus that’s sufficient.
Check out the latest validators which now include some microformats2 support as well!
Third, this is a call to upgrade all microformats supporting tools to microformats2. As nearly all of these are open source, this is an open call for contributions, updates, patches, etc. for:
If it generates microformats, upgrade it to instead generate microformats2.
If it consumes microformats, upgrade it to also consume microformats2 (which may be most easily done by making use of one of the microformats2 parsers that has backward compatible parsing built in).
10th Year Goal
As we enter the tenth year of microformats.org let’s make it our collective goal to upgrade our pages, our sites, and our tools to microformats2.
Our goal is to complete all the above upgrades by microformats.org’s tenth birthday, if not sooner. Let’s get to work.
Thanks to Barnaby Walters and fellow microformats admins Rohit Khare, Kevin Marks, & Tess O’Connor for reviewing drafts of this post. Thanks to Kevin especially for some copy edits!
This post was originally posted on tantek.com.