Category: This Week in Microformats

This Week in Microformats is a semi-regular update of what’s happened on the wiki and mailing lists. at 5: Two Billion Pages With hCards, 94% of Rich Snippets

The community recently celebrated its 5th birthday – five plus years of openly researching, creating, and iterating on web standards to express common semantics designed for humans first, machines second.

Two Billion pages with hCards

Originally brainstormed in September 2004, and rapidly adopted by numerous tools, sites, large and small, the number of pages published with one or more hCards recently crossed the 2 billion mark a few days ago according to Yahoo Search Monkey, making it the most popular format for people or organizations on the web:

screenshot of Yahoo Search Monkey search results for pages with hCards showing just over 2 billion pages with hCards, taken 2010-07-03 at 7pm Pacific Time

Search Monkey’s results do tend to fluctuate a few percentage points, even hour by hour, so you may see different numbers, both lower, and over time, higher and higher. Here are a few recent hCard deployments that no doubt contributed to crossing the two billion mark:

1. Basecamp adds hCards: people and companies

Just a few days ago, Jason Zimdars of 37 Signals reported that Basecamp has been updated to support hCards for people and companies, and is now looking into more uses:

I’m pretty happy with this added functionality so I intend to explore using hCards in other parts of our apps where it makes sense.

Thanks to Jeremy Keith for making the request and following-up with 37 Signals.

2. All .tel domains now support hCard

And just yesterday Telnic announced that all .tel names now support the hCard microformat

3. Over 14 Million of Gravatar Profile hCards

About a month ago, Automattic‘s Gravatar launched public, linkable profiles for all users , beautifully presented and marked up with hCard, e.g. check out Beau Lebens‘s profile:

screenshot of Beau Lebens's Gravatar profile loaded in Firefox with the Operator toolbar showing one hCard

That’s another 14+ million hCards (figure from, each representing an individual blogger on the public web.

4. Over 20 Million BrightKite hCards

Finally, just before’s 5th birthday on this past June 20th, developers of BrightKite informed us that they’ve fully implemented hCard on all of their 5.5 million registered user profiles and 16.5 million venue pages – another 22 million new hCards. Thanks for the birthday present BrightKite!

94% of rich snippets markup

All of these deployments come from the powerful combination of: 1. microformats ease-of-authoring (the easiest way to semantically markup people, venues, etc. in HTML), and 2. the fact that search engines like Yahoo and Google index microformats and make them visible in their user interfaces.

In May of 2009 Google launched Rich Snippets with support for microformats and RDFa, with a set of content partners like Yelp who all chose to use microformats to produce rich snippets in Google search results.

screenshot fragment of a Google Rich Snippet of a Yelp search result showing average rating and number of reviews from their use of the hReview-aggregate

Starting with support for hCard, hReview, hReview-aggregate, and hProduct, over the past year, Google added support for hCalendar and hRecipe as well.

For all of these, Google provided side-by-side examples for each snippet type in multiple formats (microformats, RDFa, microdata), which in many ways has helped to demonstrate how much simpler/easier microformats are in many respects (and some of the promise that microdata shows for more general extensibility).

As recently reported by ReadWriteWeb, Google themselves reported at the Semantic Technologies conference that when Google finds data for rich snippets on pages, 94% of the time that data for rich snippets is marked up with microformats (40,091 vs. 2,514, conservatively assuming none of of those pages contain both, if they did, the 94% number would be even higher).

photograph of a slide presented by Google at the Semantic Technologies conference showing a table of sources of rich snippets comparing microformats, about 40k total, vs. RDFa at about 2.5k total.

Photo credit: Read Write Web: Google’s Semantic Web Push: Rich Snippets Usage Growing.

The numbers comparing hCard vs. alternative person markup are particularly staggering:

  • ~30x more person snippets use hCard (33,675 vs. 1,160).

This is no surprise, as The State of Web Development 2010 survey showed nearly an order of magnitude gap, that is far more (6x more) web developers use microformats in their day to day work (34.52% use microformats vs 5.63% use RDFa, per the survey).

Given many more web developers are using microformats, it’s not surprising that Google is finding more microformats than alternatives. What is interesting though is that while 6x more developers use microformats, Google is finding 16x more microformats for rich snippets than alternatives.

One could conclude from these two numbers that developers using microformats are 2-3 times more net productive in terms of number of pages produced with rich snippets. This net productivity could be because microformats are easier (take less time) to author, and possibly that microformats are easier to get right, and thus have Google recognize them, as compared to alternatives.

Making Micoformats Even Simpler

Still, we can do even better than that. And no, I’m not just talking about going from 94% to 99+%.

The Google presentation slide noted that the results were out of one million web pages sampled from the Internet. Out of that, only ~40,000 had microformats. Given that nearly every web page mentions people, organizations, events, or some other popular microformat, that number should be much higher.

Thus there is much room for us to improve, and in particular, based on feedback, from Google, Yahoo, from numerous smaller companies and independent web developers, we can and should make microformats even simpler. Simpler to write, easier to get right, and ideally, even more micro – less code, less page weight. Starting with a few ideas brainstormed a couple of months ago, there’s now a few folks working on a “microformats 2.0” to achieve these goals.

Do you have feedback or ideas about how microformats could be made even simpler and easier for authors?

Please add your thoughts to the “microformats-made-simpler” wiki page.

Have you implemented hCard profiles on your site?

Add your site to the hCard supporting user profiles page.

Thanks to all of the hard work and contributions by everyone in the microformats community for an excellent fifth year of Here’s looking forward to even more microformats accomplishments in our sixth year.

Recently in microformats: 2009-09

It’s been a while since we’ve posted a “This Week in Microformats”, and September was a particularly active month for microformats:

new hResume and hCard implementations

Madgex‘s brand new importer powers the Guardian UK‘s recently launched Guardian Jobs CV Match service. The site YIID (Your Internet Identity) now also supports importing hResumes.

Open source parsing libraries continue being developed for numerous languages. The latest, as noted by Tom Morris on the , is the Java library org.microformats.hCard written by Reinier Zwitserloot.

beautiful hCards, MySpace hCards

Personal hCards have been around for years, but recently we’re seeing more and more web designers publishing their online identity using beautifully styled hCards, superb complements of form and function. Three in particular:

All three make good use of CSS for styling and layout, and Javascript for dynamic effects. The last of the 3, Jared’s, is more simply styled than the other two, however if you look closely, his list of instant message network addresses also display his live availability on each, a really nice touch.

screenshot of Jared Hanson's instant message addresses annotated visually with his presence on each

Got a beautiful hCard you want noticed? Add it to the hCard examples in the wild wiki page.

It’s important to highlight individual hCards like the above, as continued proof that people do write web pages, HTML, markup in general, by hand. Even when such pages are generated from a database used fill out an HTML template, a person still writes the template by hand. And it’s important to highlight those that update templates as well to support microformats.

The list of social network sites with hCard profiles continues to grow, this time with a big addition: MySpace.

As of about a month ago, all new MySpace profiles, and all current users who upgrade their profile to version 2.0, automatically get hCard support, as confirmed by MySpace’s platform developers.

new tutorials and developments

Behind all these new microformats implementations and sites is a vibrant and active community, not just here on, but across the web as a whole, and across web development communities as well.

The standards-championing Dev Opera community recently published a wonderful article on Styling and extracting hCalendar by Christopher Schmitt, and updated it with use of the for better accessibility.

Safari Books Online and New Riders have made published a video, Designing with Microformats for a Beautiful Web, by well known web designer Andy Clarke.

And finally, last but not least, this past month saw the resolution of all outstanding issues on both hCard and , paving the way for updates to the specs, FAQs, and 1.0.1 drafts, incorporating important errata, updates, and brainstormed improvements.

The microformats community was quite busy this summer, and September brought a lot of forward progress. October is shaping up to be even more impressive.

For more microformats updates as they happen, be sure to subscribe to the microformats discuss mailing list and the @microformats Twitter.

Yahoo Placemaker, Optimus update, and one click microformats validator

The recent microformats momentum from the introduction of the value-class-pattern and Google & Yelp’s support continues with the launch of Yahoo Placemaker™, an update to Optimus, the open source microformats validator, and a browser button that makes it easy to one-click validate your microformats.

Yahoo Placemaker Beta supports geo and adr microformats

Congratulations to Yahoo on their recent launch of ! Yahoo Placemaker extracts locations marked up with the and microformats from web pages. See the Yahoo Placemaker documentation for details.

Optimus updated to v0.8 and supports value-title

, the open source microformats transformer that also happens to do an excellent job as a validator, has been updated to version 0.8.

Optimus v0.8 supports the recently developed ‘s “value-title” functionality. Optimus now also has its own twitter account that you can follow, . For microupdates on microformats in general, follow the twitter.

Get the Optimus microformats validator browser button

It’s hard to believe some of the first validation browser buttons* (for HTML, CSS, and links) were written over ten years ago, and now there’s one more:

> Optimus microformats validator

In most browsers, simply drag and drop the above “> Optimus microformats validator” link to your “Links Toolbar” / “Bookmarks Bar” / “Favorites Bar”. The Technorati Browser Buttons page has good additional installation instructions for browser buttons for various browsers.

Then go to any of your pages with microformats, click the newly created “> Optimus microformats validator” button in your browser toolbar, and read the validator report for suggested fixes and improvements to your microformats markup.

With both Google and Yahoo now indexing microformats like and , use the Optimus microformats validator to debug your microformats. Additional tools can be found on the .

*Browser buttons were originally called or . However, Google’s documentation calls them “Browser Buttons” which sounds much friendlier and free of tech-jargon origins.

Recently in microformats (July edition)

‘This Week in Microformats’ is a summary of notable microformats activity from the mailing lists, wiki, events and the wider web.

On the wiki

  • Din Neville has been working hard this week, updating the Russian translation of the wiki. Thank you, Din.
  • datetime-design-pattern contains documentation and discussion of alternative patterns to represent dates and times.
  • The parsers page has fallen a little out of date. If you’d like to help update it with links to current available parsers, please help!
  • There’s a new html5 page to track changes in HTML5 which will affect microformats (both positive and negative). Not that these issues don’t affect parsing now, and won’t do until HTML5 is stable.

On the mailing lists

Discuss and Dev have been very busy with discussion around the abbr datetime pattern, there’s a lot of it and the threads cross over quite a lot. The core of these discussions should be documented on the wiki on the aforementioned page over the course of this week. The main threads are in the archive page for µf-dev and the archive page for µf-discuss

Other discussions:

On the web


To contribute to the next issue, please edit the wiki page. Thanks!

Recently in Microformats

This Week in Microformats’ is a summary of notable microformats activity from the mailing lists, wiki, events and the wider web.

On the wiki

  • We’ve documented machine data usage in microformats (date and time formats, geographic locations, keywords in certain formats). The page is a quick reference for all the formats we specify, the all the current supported methods on how to embed data alongside your own text, in an HTML valid manner.

On the µf-Discuss mailing list

  • Discussion off the back of the BBC’s request for help learning about screen reader usage.

On the web

  • The BBC are asking for help in finding out how people use screen reader applications to read web pages aloud; critically, whether they have them set to always read the title attribute of abbreviation elements. Please give them some feedback if you can, it helps improve the information we have to work with on future patterns.
  • Martin McEvoy has released TransFormr: A Simple set of XSLT and PHP tools for Transforming Microformats. (“Read Martin’s introduction from µf-discuss”)
  • Hi5 have added hCard and XFN support to their friends lists.
  • Mahalo have added microformats to their search result pages.
  • Toluu have added an hCard-based profile import function to their sign-up process.

In the real world

To contribute to the next issue, please edit the wiki page. Thanks!