May 22nd, 2007
I really like what is happening to Web.
Cool-new-ajaxy sites are often actually more friendly, useful and powerful.
Web development seem to become way less hacky.
And a lot of standards that are gaining adoption are actually extremely useful (think about RSS).
But there is a group of new standards that I fail to understand.
They are called microformats.
In my understanding, there are three pillars of Ideal Web:
- Markup provides semantics
- Styles provide presentation
- Scripts provide behavior
These blocks are logical, understandable, maintanable and loosely coupled.
It is worth noting that all strict DTDs are here to make the markup truly semantic and help achieve such separation.
This is why I write <strong> instead of <b>.
And this is what helps Web 2.0 applications to be really rich without being messy.
And for me, microformats are viral semantics.
They infect markup and overload it with additional meaning, turning it into an ill, bloated mess.
The microformats wiki states:
Reuse the schema (names, objects, properties, values, types, hierarchies, constraints) as much as possible from pre-existing, established, well-supported standards by reference
For me it seems more honest to say overuse, since the most interesting thing about microformats is that there are no actual problems they solve.
Consider this fragment:
<span class="tel"><span class="type">Home</span> (<span class="type">pref</span>erred): <span class="value">+1.415.555.1212</span> </span>
I would prefer:
<tel><type>Home</type>(<type>pref</type>erred): <value>+1.415.555.1212</value> </tel>
Now it does not seem that somebody is reusing iron to hammer nails.
It is 2007. XML is here and it is supported. X in XHTML stands for extensible.
IE did not support CSS namespaces, but you could write styles like vcard\:tel for years.
And this syntax does not seem like a show stopper to me.
Actually, upon reading on topic, I immediatelly googled for “microformats are stupid”.
The first thing I found was Why I Hate Microformats? by Robert Cooper.
He points to the same things I do, but he misses the fact that we had no need to wait for the IE7.
There is also a more interesting post Must Ignore vs. Microformats by Elliotte Rusty Harold.
The one point I do not agree is that Elliotte argues that XML does not have to be valid.
I do not see why the properly namespaced XML in XHTML would not be valid, but I will have to test it myself.
Web would be better if microformat authors read more about XHTML and did some browser tests before pushing this standard.