A tipping point for microformats

My spidey senses are tingling. Something has been happening in the last week or so. Microformats are getting noticed.

Until now, microformats were trapped in a chicken and egg situation. Few people wanted to publish microformatted content unless there were tools that would then make use of those formats. Meanwhile, the tool makers didn’t want to make applications to harness microformats until a critical mass of people were already publishing with those formats.

Technorati have broken that circular argument with the introduction of microformats search. It’s still in beta but already it’s started a new wave of interest in microformats. This is the killer app we’ve been waiting for.

I’ve been contacted by quite a few different people lately with questions about implementing hCard or hCalendar on their sites. The reason is pretty straightforward.

What’s the first thing you do when you’re presented with any new kind of search engine? That’s right… you ego surf. If your name isn’t returning any results from the Technorati kitchen then you’re going to want to do something about it.

So it may be ego, not altruism, that is driving the current push of increased microformat usage. Whatever the reason, I’m just glad to see more and more data being published in a format that I can take with me as part of my local infocloud.

It’s also a real time saver for the people providing the data. Publishing the same data in more than one format is a pain.

Michael Heilemann created an iCal schedule for Reboot 8. Jon Hicks has done the same for @media. All that effort wouldn’t have been necessary at all if the original schedules on the conference websites were marked up with a few extra class names.

Mind you, the @media site does have all the speakers marked up in hCard. You can use the wonderful Tails extension for Firefox to isolate the contact information or just point that page to Brian Suda’s vCard extractor on Technorati and you can instantly add all of those people to your address book.

I’ve been doing my bit for the microformats revolution over on The Session. There are hReviews in the Amazon-powered shop and there’s a brand new section that I launched a few days ago. The events page lists user-contributed details of upcoming concerts, festivals and workshops, all marked up in hCalendar. Right now it’s a handy way for someone to discover places to go for some fun in Ireland this Summer. In the future, I hope to build on the microformatted content to provide personalised information tailored to people’s location and schedule.

Like I said in my talk at Reboot:

Microformats are the nanotechnology for building a semantic web.

(By the way, there are a few microformats hidden in that article: I took a perverse pleasure in marking up the Renaissance with class="vevent").

Remember, the microformats community isn’t even a year old yet. This is just the beginning. I’m quite certain that we’ll see many more cool tools that harness microformats in the coming months.

Of course, we’ll probably also see the introduction of microformatted spam (hSpam? Ham?). That will be surest indication that a technology has really hit the big time: just look at what happened to email, blogs, comments and trackbacks.

Have you published a response to this? :