In the quest to make the Web more structured, Yahoo Local (the link from the Yahoo Local blog goes to The Dalles, where Google is building its mega datacenter) now supports the hCalendar, hCard, and hReview microformats on almost all business listings, search results, events, and reviews, said Yahoo's Andy Baio (below) during a workshop on decentralizing data at Supernova.
Andy Baio, creator and co-founder of Upcoming.org and leader of Yahoo's social events platform development, announcing the Yahoo Local microformats
Microformats are an open standard for structuring Web content, such as contact information, events and product reviews. "Big companies not willing to commit until there is wider adoption, and applications won't work without more data to work from," Baio said. "This is our big egg we are putting out. I hope it's an arms race...and that tomorrow Google, Microsoft, eBay and AOL come along...everybody benefits. The quicker it spreads, the quicker the tools will be available." With 15 million business listings in Yahoo Local, overnight the number of microformatted entities has doubled or tripled on the Internet, Baio added.
"Because it is such a young format, it's mostly transparent to users because the tools that take advantage of microformats are in early stages. We want to build momentum so developers build tools that are useful for users. The tools are pretty geeky now," Baio told me. "The potential for adoption, as it has been for RSS, is huge. It's embedded in HTML and easy to implement and read. On Upcoming.org, we implemented in one hour sitewide, without changing the presentation. The application for Yahoo Local didn't take much longer. It makes the Web better for humans and machines."
The technology will bring interoperabilty between the desktop and the Web, Baio said. For example if Microsoft's proposed Live Clipboard were available for the Mac and Windows, copying an event into Outlook would retain all the relevant metadata. In another example, a browser, like Flock, could aggregate all the microformat content, such as rating, and you could search on it locally. "It's like bookmarks on steroids," Baio said. Microformats could also enable Web services interoperability, such as a GreaseMonkey extension that detects microformated events on a Web pages and lets you add them to Yahoo Calendar in one click, Baio said.
Tantek Celik says that microformats is having faster adoption than RSS or other Web technologies (Photo: Scott Beale)
Tantek Celik, an evangelist for microformats and leader in microformats.org, said that tens of millions microformated content has been spawned in a year. "It's faster adoption of technology than any other technology on the Web," he said. Rights management came up as issue. Brian Dear of EVDB, which supports microformats in its event database, said, "The key is what users do with the applications. It's time for software apps to start flourishing that allow users to grab an event or review and store it," he said. Dear also said that blogs should have smart forms to fill out event structure, but noted if the event data changes, it will be out of synch. He encouraged a trusted registry of event data.
Update: Yahoo's Andy Baio discuss microformat and better browsing [Video]