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A microformat (sometimes abbreviated μF or uF) is a web-based[1] data formatting approach that seeks to re-use existing content as metadata, using only XHTML and HTML classes[2] and other attributes.[3] This approach is intended to allow information intended for end-users (such as contact information, geographic coordinates, calendar events, and the like) to also be automatically processed by software.

Although the content of web pages is technically already capable of "automated processing," and has been since the inception of the web, there are certain limitations. This is because the traditional markup tags used to display information on the web do not describe what the information means.[4] Microformats are intended to bridge this gap by attaching semantics, and thereby obviate other, more complicated methods of automated processing, such as natural language processing or screen scraping. The use, adoption and processing of microformats enables data items to be indexed, searched for, saved or cross-referenced, so that information can be reused or combined.[4]

Current microformats allow the encoding and extraction of events, contact information, social relationships and so on. More are being developed. Version 3 of the Firefox browser,[5] as well as version 8 of Internet Explorer[6] are expected to include native support for microformats.


Microformats emerged as part of a grassroots movement[4] to make recognizable data items (such as events, contact details or geographical locations) capable of automated processing by software, as well as directly readable by end-users.[4][7] Link-based microformats emerged first. These include vote links that express opinions of the linked page, which can be tallied into instant polls by search engines.[8]

As the microformats community grew, CommerceNet, a nonprofit organization that promotes electronic commerce on the Internet, helped sponsor and promote the technology and support the microformats community in various ways.[8] CommerceNet also helped co-found the microformats community site microformats.org.[8]

Neither CommerceNet nor Microformats.org is a standards body. The microformats community is an open wiki, mailing list, and Internet relay chat (IRC) channel.[8] Most of the existing microformats were created at the Microformats.org wiki and associated mailing list, by a process of gathering examples of web publishing behaviour, then codifying it. Some other microformats (such as rel=nofollow and unAPI) have been proposed, or developed, elsewhere.

Technical overview

XHTML and HTML standards allow for semantics to be embedded and encoded within the attributes of markup tags. Microformats take advantage of these standards by indicating the presence of metadata using the following attributes:

  • class
  • rel
  • rev (in one case, otherwise deprecated in microformats[3])

For example, in the text "The birds roosted at 52.48,-1.89" is a pair of numbers which may be understood, from their context, to be a set of geographic coordinates. By wrapping them in spans (or other HTML elements) with specific class names (in this case geo, latitude and longitude, all part of the geo microformat specification):

The birds roosted at
   <span class="geo">
     <span class="latitude">52.48</span>,
     <span class="longitude">-1.89</span>

machines can be told exactly what each value represents and can then perform a variety of tasks such as indexing it, looking it up on a map and exporting it to a GPS device.


In this example, the contact information is presented as follows:

   <div>Joe Doe</div>
   <div>The Example Company</div>
   <a href="http://example.com/">http://example.com/</a>

With hCard microformat markup, that becomes:

 <div class="vcard">
   <div class="fn">Joe Doe</div>
   <div class="org">The Example Company</div>
   <div class="tel">604-555-1234</div>
   <a class="url" href="http://example.com/">http://example.com/</a>

Here, the formatted name (fn), organisation (org), telephone number (tel) and web address (url) have been identified using specific class names and the whole thing is wrapped in class="vcard", which indicates that the other classes form an hCard (short for "HTML vCard)") and are not merely coincidentally named. Other, optional, hCard classes also exist. It is now possible for software, such as browser plug-ins, to extract the information, and transfer it to other applications, such as an address book.

In-context examples

For annotated examples of microformats on live pages, see HCard#Live example and Geo (microformat)#Three_classes.

Specific microformats

Several microformats have been developed to enable semantic markup of particular types of information.

  • hAtom - for marking up Atom feeds from within standard HTML
  • hCalendar - for events
  • hCard - for contact information; includes:

Proposed microformats

Among the many proposed microformats,[9] the following are undergoing active development:

  • citation - for citing references
  • currency - for amounts of money
  • geo extensions - for places on Mars, The Moon, and other such bodies; for altitude; and for collections of waypoints marking routes or boundaries
  • species - For the names of living things.
  • measurements - For physical quantities, structured data-values.

Uses of microformats

Using microformats within HTML code provides additional formatting and semantic data that can be used by applications. These could be applications that collect data about on-line resources, such as web crawlers, or desktop applications such as e-mail clients or scheduling software.

Several browser extensions, such as Operator, provide the ability to detect microformats within an HTML document and export them into formats compatible with contact management and calendar utilities, such as Microsoft Outlook.

Microsoft expressed a desire to incorporate Microformats into upcoming projects;[10] as have other software companies.

In Wikipedia - and more generally in MediaWiki - microformats are used as part of templates like {{coord}}.

Evaluation of microformats

Various commentators have offered review and discussion on the design principles and practical aspects of microformats. Additionally, microformats have been compared to other approaches that seek to serve the same or similar purpose.[11] From time to time, there is criticism of a single, or all, microformats.[11] Documented efforts to advocate both the spread and use of microformats are known to exist as well.[12] [13] Håkon Wium Lie has said we will see "a bunch of microformats being developed, and that’s how the semantic web will be built." [14]

Design principles

Computer scientist and entrepreneur, Rohit Khare stated that reduce, reuse, and recycle is "shorthand for several design principles" that motivated the development and practices behind microformats.[8][15] These aspects can be summarized as follows:

  • Reduce: favor the simplest solutions and focus attention on specific problems;
  • Reuse: work from experience and favor examples of current practice;
  • Recycle: encourage modularity and the ability to embed, valid XHTML can be reused in blog posts, RSS feeds, and anywhere else you can access the web.[8]


Because some microformats make use of title attribute of HTML's abbr element to conceal machine-readable data (particularly date-times and geographical coordinates) in the "abbr design pattern", the plain text content of the element is inaccessible to those screenreaders that expand abbreviations.[16]

Intellectual property

As part of the open participation model of the microformats community to require that all contributions be placed into the public domain. This means that any page created, or any content added to microformats is placed into the public domain for maximum possible reuse.

Alternative approaches

Microformats are not the only solution for providing "more intelligent data" on the web. Alternative approaches exist and are under development as well. For example, the use of XML markup and standards of the semantic web are cited as alternative approaches. [8] Some contrast these with microformats in that they do not necessarily coincide with the design principles of "reduce, reuse, and recycle", at least not to the same extent.[8]

One advocate of microformats, Tantek Çelik, characterized a problem with alternative approaches: Template:Cquote

For some applications the use of other approaches may be valid. If one wishes to use microformat-style embedding but the type of data one wishes to embed does not map to an existing microformat, one can use RDFa to embed arbitrary vocabularies into HTML. An example of this would be embedding domain-specific scientific data on the Web like zoological or chemical data, where no microformat for such data exists. Furthermore, standards such as W3C's GRDDL allow microformats to be converted into data compatible with the Semantic Web.[17]

Another advocate of microformats, Ryan King, put the compatibility of microformats with other approaches this way: Template:Cquote

See also





Template:Refend Template:Refend

Further reading

External links

da:Microformat de:Mikroformat es:Microformatos fr:Microformat ko:마이크로포맷 it:Microformat lv:Mikroformāti nl:Microformat ja:マイクロフォーマット pt:Microformatos ru:Микроформаты sv:Mikroformat


  1. Microformats may be used in web pages and also any other context that supports HTML and XHTML. This includes RSS.
  2. existing-classes - Microformats
  3. 3.0 3.1 rel-faq - Microformats
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 “What’s the Next Big Thing on the Web? It May Be a Small, Simple Thing — Microformats,” Knowledge@Wharton, 27 July 2005; http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/index.cfm?fa=printArticle&ID=1247
  5. Template:Cite web
  6. Template:Cite web
  7. In this context, the definition of "End-user" includes a person reading a web page on a computer screen or mobile device, or an assistive technology software program such as a screen reader.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 Template:Cite journal
  9. Microformats' exploratory discussions
  10. Bill Gates at Mix06 - "We need microformats"
  11. 11.0 11.1 Template:Cite web
  12. Template:Cite web
  13. Template:Cite webThis includes community resources for marketing microformats such as buttons, banners, wallpaper / desktop screens, logo graphics, etc.
  14. Template:Cite webHakon Wium Lie, who proposed the concept of Cascading Style Sheets, included microformats as components of the future web together with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and DOM.
  15. See, e.g. The Next (Small) Thing on the Semantic Web? pp 71-72.
  16. .Template:Cite web
  17. Template:Cite web