The Week of MicrodataThursday, May 14th, 2009
It’s been a really busy week for microdata. So busy that I haven’t personally had a chance to read up on all the details of the various announcements. That won’t stop me from trying to summarize it all for you, though.
First, Ian Hickson (HTML5 editor, Google employee, cat lover) finally made a concrete move on the long-simmering microdata in HTML5 issue. Instead of backing either Microformats (which works in HTML5 as-is due to its methodology) or RDFa (which Ian seems to be stating is a poor solution to the use cases it’s made to address), he decided to make his own new microdata syntax “based on RDFa”. I’ll leave it to the audience to determine whether this is a side-effect of the WhatWG’s NIH mentality or whether it’s genuinely a better tool than RDFa. Here’s Ian’s WhatWG annoucement, and here’s the new section in the HTML5 draft. For another perspective on it, the always fiery Shelley Powers gives us her two cents (adjusting for inflation) on the matter.
You would think a move like this might spell certain doom (cue dramatic music) for RDFa’s future in HTML5. However, at the same time Ian is trying to move us away from RDFa, his company makes a very concrete move towards adopting it. Google, during their big Searchology event, introduced Rich Snippets, wherein webmasters marking up relevant data in either RDFa or Microformats will have the possibility of Google making extra use of that information when their site is displayed in search results. Here’s the official Google blog post about the topic, including a delicious FAQ.
I’m not trying to be snide here, but if Ian’s own company is supporting RDFa extraction, as well as Yahoo’s Search Monkey, there’s little reason to believe that RDFa won’t somehow get adopted into HTML5.
In case Google’s Searchology event took up all your attention, on the same day the Microformats community made an annoucement about officially adopting the value-class pattern. Here’s their news post about the topic. If you’re already using Microformats, they suggest you get busy updating your syntax. If you don’t, this might be a good jumping point to look into what Microformats can offer your site.
If you’ve somehow gotten this far in the post without knowing what microdata is, I’d suggest you take a look at both the RDFa and Microformats websites. Marking up data so it’s both human-readable and machine-readable is an important step towards the semantic web, which Google’s recent annoucements have indicated they’re supporting as we move forward. So dig in, and see what use you can make of either solution in your own websites. Also feel free to check out Sam Ruby’s recent microdata blog post about the recent developments.