The One Big Thing you need to know this week is that Google is now supporting microformats for what they are calling “rich snippets.”
Microformats are essentially specialized HTML code that provides metadata to pieces of information on a given Web page to make it much easier for software to understand and process that information.
There are, for example, microformats for contact information and event information. The microformatting markup for contact information essentially tells your browser (or other software like Google’s crawlers) that this bit of information is a person’s name, this bit is the name of that person’s organization, this bit of information is a street address, a city, state and zip code, a URL.
By applying the metadata to that block of text on a Web page, Google can better understand it and therefore improve their search results. Browser plugins could detect this information and seamlessly download contact information to be exported into your Outlook contacts.
Event information could be easily embedded from a Web site into your Facebook profile.
By attaching longitude and latitude coordinates to your business’ address on your Web site, the GPS systems of mobile browsers could identify that location and seamlessly offer people directions to your location.
LinkedIn and Facebook and Yahoo! and Microsoft already support microformats but what’s big is simply that Google, the 800 pound gorilla of online information retrieval, has adopted the standard.
This will greatly accelerate the widespread adoption of the semantic Web. As Dries Buytaert points out, microformats add a whole new dimension to search engine optimization. Search Engine Land, for example, demonstrates how microformats would change search results for restaurant review sites.
Microformats’ most profound impact may be on the mobile Web by making address books and navigation far more user-friendly.
We will also see a great deal more mashups since microformats will make it far easier for people and software to aggregate and mix disparate data; mapping locations to a map should be a breeze, for example.
Get up to speed on microformats:
- Wikipedia’s explanation of microformats
- Microformats WordPress plugins
- Safari plugin
- Operator – Firefox addon
- Oomph, a microformat toolkit