So I Think I Finally Understand Microformats

People Tagging TantekTantek Talks Microformats Hosted on Zooomr

Yesterday Kristopher and I spent the afternoon up at Technorati with Tantek Celik, Dave Sifry and their team and spent a great deal of time talking about how Zooomr and Technorati might work together. But more significantly we were able to spend a great deal of time working on microformats for Zooomr.

Although previously I had read a little about microformats and listened to Tantek’s talk about them at the Future of Web Apps conference last month, I went into Technorati still not understanding them 100%. I’m not a programmer and as much as I wish I had more technical skills with programming I don’t. But yesterday I think I finally got microformats and finally understand the significance and importance of their adoption.

Simply put, microformats are ways that machines (read computers) can understand the contents of information on an internet page in order to best catergorize that data and also make that data universal amongst sites.

The most important thing that comes out of this behind the scenes mark up, in my opinion, is user portability of data.

At it’s easiest level microformats allow you to catergorize the basic information on a profile page. Name, email address, website, phone number, bio, etc. as well as the contacts tied to your profile on a given site (family, friend, aquaintance, contact). By identifying which fields hold this data this allow you then to export this data from one page and import this data into another page supporting microformat importing.

So rather than a user having to re-enter their basic profile information and remake contacts on 10 sites, they can simply shuffle their data around between sites.

And this is all well and good, but where it gets much more exiciting for me is the the area that is still to be developed which are microformats for photographs.

As a photographer, one of the things that has frustrated me has been an inabilty to easily and effectively manage and transfer my growing digital photography collection between photo sites. At present I’ve got my shots up on several sites. Zooomr (of course), Flickr, Webshots, Vizrea, Riya, Tabblo, etc. But with the exception of Tabblo (who is using the Flickr API to import) I had to upload all of my photos to each of these sites independently. That’s a lot of work and a pain and most significantly while it allows me the ability to get my photos on different sites it doesn’t (again, with the exception of Tabblo) allow me to get my metadata between sites.

So my hope for the future is that microformats will be able to allow real portability of user generated content. If I want to move all 6,000 + of my photos on Flickr to Zooomr, or Picasa or Riya or Photobucket, or wherever, my hope would be that to the extent that standards in microformats for photography can be standardized, that all of the basic information associated with my photographs (the image itself, the tags associated with an image, the notes and comments associated with an image, etc.) could in fact become portable with the click of a button.

While we seem to be there today with the very basics of your contact info, figuring out microformats for photographs is likely to be more complicated, but very significant and important to pursue nonetheless.

At Zooomr we are excited about microformats and about the potential for the portability of your user data.

Thanks again to Tantek for being such a passionate evangelist for microformats and for taking so much time yesterday in helping us to code our profile page in Zooomr with microformats.

For a mini set of shots that I took at Technorati yesterday you can click through here. The Pabst Blue Ribbon beer was mine, not Kristophers.