Web search leaders Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are working together to standardise HTML markup codes via the Schema project, with the aim of delivering more relevant results on their search engines.
Schema, announced on Thursday, is designed to foster a standard vocabulary for data markup on web pages. The project has already created over a hundred schemas — HTML markup tags — to allow website administrators to tag data according to a given category. These categories range from movies and music to TV shows, products, places and others.
The use of common schemas to structure the data embedded in websites should lead to better search results. For example, if a person ran a Dr Seuss fan site, then they could surround the Green Eggs and Ham page with standardised HTML tags that made sure the Bing, Yahoo and Google search engines recognised it was referring to a book, rather than food, and would therefore rank it higher in relevant searches.
"We want to enable publishers to give us hints about what things they are describing on their sites," the Microsoft Bing team wrote in a blog post on Thursday. "Rather than rely solely on machine learning and other [artificial-intelligence] techniques, we asked, 'what if we could enable publishers to have a single schema they could use to describe their sites that all search engines could understand?'
We want to enable publishers to give us hints about what things they are describing on their sites.– Bing
"We want to be able to model the world in which we all live to the level that search can actually help you make decisions and get things done in real life by understanding all the options the world presents," Bing added.
Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, via its Bing search engine unit, have been collaborating since 2006 on the Sitemaps.org project, and the markup standardisation builds on this. Schema.org houses a single repository for a common set of schemas, which can grow as the project gets feedback from webmasters.
Schema.org also contains the tools and information necessary for webmasters to begin modifying their sites to conform to the markup tools. Example code for modifying an entry on Hollywood flick Pirates of the Caribbean shows how the markup can be added. However, implementing the schemas takes resources as it roughly doubles the number of HTML characters used, so it carries an implementation cost without automated tools.
"With Schema.org, site owners can improve how their sites appear in search results not only on Google, but on Bing, Yahoo and potentially other search engines as well in the future," Google wrote in a blog post.
Baidu was not mentioned in the scheme, though Yahoo does have a minority holding in the company. According to May figures from NetMarketShare, the Chinese search engine ranks third worldwide in search, with a 4.89-percent share. Google leads with 82 percent, followed by Yahoo with 6.42 percent and Microsoft's Bing at 3.91 percent.
In the UK, Google has 90 percent, Bing 4.39 has percent and Yahoo 3.53 percent, with Baidu nowhere to be seen, according to April figures from Experian Hitwise. In the US, Google has 65.4 percent, Yahoo 15.9 percent and Bing 14.1 percent, with Baidu again not present, according to April figures from ComScore.
Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviews delivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK's newsletters.