Thursday, July 13, 2006

Microformats: Tag - you're it

At An Event Apart in NYC, we were blessed with a presentation by Tantek Çelik, Chief Technologist for Technorati. His presentation was on Day 2 (Code Day) and was called "What are Microformats?" When I first saw the presentation title I figured maybe I could skip out on it and go to the MoMA. Lucky for me, the MoMA was closed, because it was one of the most eye-opening presentations I had ever seen.

I think I may be a little behind the times compared to some, but what Tantek and his colleagues have established is a system of standardized tags that allow you to seamlessly move information from the Web to a variety of formats.

For example, if you go to the speakers page for An Event Apart, you'll see a link at the bottom that says "Add speakers to your address book." When you click on that link, it will download vCard information for all the speakers that you can easily import into (of course) your address book.

I've seen these links before and not thought much about them, but the reason you can do that is simply because of the tags inserted into the (X)HTML code that allow systems to recognize particular bits of information. And that's not all.

Imagine for a moment, if Yahoo! Local added these Microformat tags to all of their listings and allowed you to download results to your local drive. In June 2006, Yahoo! Local did just that.

Now let's take this to a format other than personal information. You can also tag event information with "hCalendar" markup so that it downloads to your iCal. And not only that. hcalendar features let you subscribe to calendars through these microformats so you can automatically update schedules and information directly from iCal.

The opportunities are endless. Thanks to Tantek, everything I do from here on out that can use microformats will. And as a bonus, he has posted his presentation under the Creative Commons license (which can even be tagged with the microformat) here. The more people that link to this and talk about it, the faster it will catch on.


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