GCN Tech Blog

By GCN Staff

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Microformats get real

At Microformats, you can insert vCards from the site directly into your addressbook, or schedule into your Google calendar any appointments found on the page.

The new year is here and we're already we're seeing the first wave of buzzwords. The White House pushes the word 'surge' to describe its proposed increase of troops in Iraq, and the Web 2.0 world has put forth a new term, Microformats, to describe a surge of new activity within its own domain.

Microformats are Extensible Markup Language-based schemas written for very narrowly-defined duties. For instance, Hcard is a set of tags that can be used for defining the fields within a virtual business card.

Now, IBM Corp. developer Michael Kaply has released a plug-in for the Firefox browser that can put some of these Microformats into practical use, called Operator.

Once installed, Operator will scan each Web page you visit and look for data encoded in a Microformat. Any information found can then be piped to the appropriate application or Web service. For instance, on the Microformats home page, you can download vCards into Microsoft Outlook, or place into your Google calendar an event that is listed on that page. A toolbar on the browser lets you know if any Microformatted data resides on the page you're visiting.

Although a simple plug-in, Operator assumes a pretty radical notion. It upgrades the role of Web browser from information viewer to information broker, noted Mozilla developer Alex Faaborg on his blog.

'Much in the same way that operating systems currently associate particular file types with specific applications, future Web browsers are likely going to associate semantically marked up data you encounter on the Web with specific applications, either on your system or online,' he writes.

Instead of posting certain types of information to third-party sites, such as an advertisement to craigslist, users can tags their ads on their own sites, and let aggregator sites ferret out these ads automatically. In fact, one site, Edgeio, already offers this capability.

'If Mozilla proceeds with this goal for Firefox 3 to be a broker of information, then that will significantly raise the stakes in the browser war again,' noted Richard MacManus on the Read/WriteWeb site.

Posted by Joab Jackson on Jan 15, 2007 at 9:39 AM


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