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No business benefits for microformats

Over the past year there’s been a lot of attention (in certain circles) for “microformats”. Essentially, microformats are standardisations of class-values to use in html. The implied benefit is that any 3rd party (be it a browser or another site) could easily gain access to that information and be able to do something useful with it.

However, aside from a few practical issues, microformats are a fundamentally flawed idea.

Microformats are an attempt at client side innovation. Looking at the history of (x)html, javascript and css (the three main client side technologies), you can see it’s rife with incompatibilities. The standardised versions of said technologies have also had (and continue to have) very long market penetration times (the time it takes for the support of a technology to spread among end users).

The funny thing is that these problems can be mitigated by something very simple; server side innovation! It’d have a couple of huge advantages. First-off, it’d give more control over the user experience. Since microformats don’t define how they should be handled by User Agents (UA’s, like browsers or mail clients), you have no way of knowing how your code will exactly be interpreted by them.

Secondly, it allows you to use more compatible technology on the client side (html, css, vCards, pdf, you name it). This means it would work, right now, for everyone. Also, especially for sites that use a CMS (system to manage a sites’ content), server side solutions are a lot easier to implement.

A few examples of microformats, and an explanation why they don’t provide any (business) benefits:

hCard – Have extra mark-up so you can point to an external site which produces a vCard? Mark-up which might force you to deal with UA’s which may mess up the resulting vCard because they interpret hCards differently? Why not just upload a vCard or have your CMS generate a vCard automatically?

hAtom – Making the page itself it’s own feed? So the full, heavy, page can be pinged by feed readers all the time, using far more bandwidth and messing up stats? Are you kidding me?

So yes, I do think that microformats are not worth implementing yourself.

2 replies on “No business benefits for microformats”

Is that what hAtom is for? I’ve never quite bothered to really look into what it was.

I think I’m actually a little more curious about the styling possibilities created by the extra markup of microformats half the time.

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