At PDC last year, I got to sit with Tantek a few times and debate the microformats approach to semantics. We discussed microformats in a few sessions at PDC (and bittorrent even came up, for those bloggers who speculate without attending the conference). Anyway, many of us XML-heads have become more intrigued by microformats approach. I think it’s obvious that this approach is the next step beyond tagging for grassroots semantic web.
Now Marc is blogging about the Microformats BOF at MIX. Just six months ago, it was easy to imagine the web splintering into another hundred-years war over “lightweight metadata format” standards. But at MIX, it was clear that Tantek and Marc aren’t intending to contribute to any such battles, and that’s a big reason for hope.
We discussed the whole “lightweight metadata” thing at yesterday’s 4th Friday Cabal, as well. I feel safe to make some predictions about how this will evolve going forward. Note that I’m talking about the overall microformat approach; not about individual formats.
- Most uses of lightweight metadata, such as geotagging, ratings and reviews, calendaring, etc. will switch to using microformats.org approach.
- On the indexing side, the services like Google, Yahoo, EBay, Craigslist, etc. who crawl and index all of this data; will continue to exert some influence. However, they will eventually be forced to recognize and crawl microformats, and none of them will be big enough to create a more dominant standard.
- On the publishing side; the publishers and tools will be slower to react. The other proprietary and fringe formats that compete with popular microformats will not go away quickly.
- Within Microsoft, you’ll still see teams use a varietay of approaches. Some still use opaque binary for metadata, others use XML+XSD, others use naked XML. None (or few) use straight microformats (ala microformats.org). I predict this will change, and teams will start to use microformats where it makes sense.
- Microformats will not replace XSD or other formats across the board. But they will win in the set of scenarios where they make sense (pretty clearly delineated at microformats.org). This is a big footprint of scenarios, and very important to then next wave of web evolution.
- As it becomes more obvious over the next 3 years that microformats approach is gaining critical mass, someone will become alarmed and try to “save” the web. This person (or people) will attempt to fork off a version of the overall packaging format and get enough adoption to force everyone to support both. This will be done in the spirit of “preserving developer choice” or “triangulating the BigCos who have become too influential” or whatever.