TECH TALK: The Now-New-Near Web: Microcontent and Microformats (Part 2)

A related discussion is around Microformats. Knowledge@Wharton had this to say in a July 2006 article:

When someone views information on a web page about an upcoming concert, why can’t he instantly add it to his personal calendar? Or when a person’s contact information is displayed, why can’t it be added to a contact list or cell phone directory with a single click? Sites like LinkedIn and Friendster let their users explore social networks, but the users have to enter the information about the people they know at each web site. Those who have a personal web site or a web log (or “blog”) probably already link to many of the people they know. Why can’t a search tool automatically build a social network from those links?

A grassroots movement has emerged that seeks to attach intelligent data to web pages by using simple extensions of the standard tags currently used for web formatting — HTML (or XHTML, its more formally structured cousin). These so-called “microformats” may change the way the web works.

Pingerati offers a concise definition: Microformats are tiny bits of markup in web pages that label contacts, events, reviews, addresses, geo-locations, and other commonly published chunks of information. Microformats are often published on blogs and in feeds, but are increasingly published on other types of web pages as well such as event databases, social network profiles, reviews sites, and contact information pages.

Tantek elik, senior technologist at Technorati, said in an interview in the same K@W article:

We’ve taken a lot of the really tough problems in the past — [such as] how to publish structured information in a way that’s presentable to humans as well as something that machines can read — and we’ve said, “What’s the simplest possible way that a [web] publisher can do that today — on today’s web — with simple XHTML?”

That’s what microformats do. They are intended to focus on the human side. We ask, “How can we make this information adapt to people’s behaviors currently? And how can we keep things as simple as possible, so that the effort required by publishers is minimal?”

Now, what happens as a result of that? Our belief is that — by offering a solution which provides better exposure to publishers, better indexing in search engines, better opportunities to get found, blogged and linked — that they will take that small extra step of adding this little microformat markup to their content. This is in direct contrast to a lot of other solutions which say — “Oh, here’s a new language we want you to learn.” Or, “Here’s a new language we want you to learn and now you need to output these additional files on your server.” It’s a hassle. We’ve lowered the barrier to entry.

Tomorrow: Microcontent and Microformats (continued)

TECH TALK The Now-New-Near Web+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.