Thoughts on HTML5, RDFa and Microformats

The Microformats community was never intended to create the standard method of expressing semantic data on the web. Microformats were always a stop-gap measure to get us 80% of the way there. In some cases we have been successful, in others we have failed miserably. The hope was that there would be a standards body that would create a semantic data expression mechanism for HTML. RDFa is that semantic data expression mechanism, and it’s disheartening to see that the HTML5 folks don’t quite grasp that semantic data expression is not only an important problem that needs to be solved for the web, but one that the Microformats community is not capable of addressing. This is coming from somebody that is heavily involved in the Microformats community and will continue to be after RDFa has been adopted.

The Microformats community was forced to create a semantic data expression mechanism because none existed at the time. That mechanism exists today and it is called RDFa. The real problem that the Microformats community is addressing is how to manage collaborative vocabulary development – it was never about the means to express that vocabulary.

The WHATWG should attempt to understand the distinction before assuming that the Microformats community is going to solve this problem for them.

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