Google to support microformats and RDFa

May 12, 2009

design / programming

Today, we have been informed that Google will support microformats and RDFa, which are ways to give machine-readable semantic structure, meaning, and connection to a web document. These methods are open standards, and have been used to varying degrees over the past few years. For example, iCal, Address Book, Thunderbird, and Firefox all are capable of reading microformats that are created by sites like flickr,, Dopplr, and LinkedIn, among others. They can read these pieces of data to understand ways that data is connected to other data, as well as what the data itself is.

In business (in the last year or so), as well as design and programming circles (ranging from the last four years to the last ten years), terms like “Semantic Web” have been thrown around a lot, and this is what it refers to. The ability for the Web to understand the kind of data that it contains, and make intelligent connections and decisions about that data. This has implications, of course, for any number of ways of connecting people with the things that are important to them.

Google’s announcement means that gradually, its own spiders will be able to understand this data. For the future of search, and the way that websites are coded for search, this is a game changer. Many large sites have, thus far, ignored microformats and RDFa, perhaps thinking that because they are lowly citizens of the HTML/XML world they are not important. This is no longer an option.

As Google and those that follow after it understand this data, it will be essential that websites support it in order to be a part of this new kind of user experience with search, and new kind of search index, that will result. The sites that do support it will greatly increase the amount of information available to us as users, as well as the ability to sift through all the information available to us and find the kind of things that we should be doing with this information.

For those interested in some of the thinking that has led up to this point, a great artistic introduction can be seen at the 2007 YouTube video Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us, as well as many of Mike Wesch‘s other videos. It is a fascinating day to think about the Web, so think about it.