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Making Content Re-Discoverable with Microformats

Microformats are a brilliantly simple solution to making content on web pages recognizable to search engines and other applications. Here’s the premise behind microformats: If we standardize the way we mark up content such as contact information, events, or even résumés, using a consistent pattern, then the applications we build could recognize that information and automate tasks or return more intelligent search results.

Re-discoverability is one of the most compelling features of microformats. If you’ve ever lost your keys, you probably resolved to place them somewhere that you can find them more easily. We find things more easily when they’re in plain sight. The same is true on the Web.

When you present your content with microformats, you provide users with the opportunity to migrate the content to a location where they’ll be able to find it again. Using a handy tool like the Operator toolbar for Firefox, users will be notified when microformat content is discovered on a page. The toolbar lets the user download contact info, events, and other data to her computer or send it over to web apps like Google Calendar, where she can rediscover it later. Portable content is findable content.

Figure 2 illustrates a typical scenario in which the details for a party are presented in the hCalendar microformat. The info then can be downloaded to the user’s desktop calendar application, where a reminder alarm can be set and friends can be invited. When the user syncs her mobile device, the party details are transferred and a friendly reminder makes sure that she doesn’t miss the party.

Figure 2

Figure 2 Microformats make content portable and easily re-discoverable.

Yahoo! recently announced that its search system will recognize and take advantage of microformats to deliver more relevant and compelling search results. As more sites begin to publish their content with microformats, and search engines begin to recognize them, we’ll be able to pinpoint the things we seek more accurately and move the content to findable locations. Microformats move us closer to achieving the Semantic Web.

Andy Clarke provides more detail on using microformats in his series of articles "Microformats: The Fine Art of Markup."

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