WSG Meetup: Microformats

Published 17:57 on 23 October, 2006

Last Thursday I took a trip up to London, to attend the latest meeting of the London Web Standards Group. It took place at the New Cavendish Street campus of Westminster University and the theme of the evening was microformats. The speakers were Mark “Norm” Norman Francis, Jeremy Keith, and Drew McLellan.

The meeting kicked off with Norm, who briefly introduced microformats and then spent some time going over their history. Jeremy then took up the reigns by introducing the various current microformats, both elemental and compound. Drew then finished up the evening by talking about the future of microformats and how, if properly implemented, they can potentially be used to replace a specifically written API (in some instances).

I took some photos of the evening but, unfortunately, they turned out badly - so I binned them. Faruk AteÅŸ, however, turned up with his usual expensive camera and a huge lens to boot. With this in mind, I’d recommend looking at Faruk’s photos of the evening, on Flickr.

Here are my notes on the evening:

What are microformats?

Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards.

Visible Meta-data

  • Most web pages contain some form of hidden meta-data. Hidden meta-data is bad!
  • Shouldn't have to use other software to access meta-data.
  • "Out of sight site, out of mind"

XML Namespaces?

  • Not widely supported in browsers
  • Encourage non-standard language (ie. developer specific element names etc.)
  • Microformats are, quite simply, far easier
  • Microformats encourage use of existing standards such as vCard or iCal

All markup should be semantic. Semantic describes what the content is, not what the content looks like.

Elemental Microformats


  • Adds extra meaning to all tags
  • rel-license eg. Creative Commons
  • rel-tag. Note: Final part of url is important here, not the content.
  • XFN


  • Much the same as rel except reverse relationship
  • rev="vote-for" / rev="vote-against"

Compound Microformats

Most compound microformats are class based.