Microformats are a set of human- and machine-readable data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards. Basically, they involve using the addition of standardized class names, rel attributes, and design patterns to XHTML markup to solve simple, specific, documented problems.

I have implemented several Microformats on this site, and at this point you may be asking “why use Microformats?”

In response to this question, Andy Mitchell of whymicroformats wrote:

Microformats can be used to let users easily extract people/event information from your website for their organizer software… in the near future, Microformats will help both you and your work be better ranked by conventional search engines like Google [and will allow your data to be aggregated by other sites and downloaded/imported by users].

Furthermore, Arve Bersvendsen writes that:

…given the the opportunity to mark up your human presentable content (read: HTML) with a well-defined microformat, you should. Mostly because writing microformat parsers is extremely easy.

He goes on to present a 13-line hCalendar parser that extracts the date, time, summary, location, and URL of an event from a HTML document.

Many others have written parsers as well; there are several plugins available for the Firefox web browser, and coming versions of Firefox will add extended support for Microformats. According to Mozilla developer Alex Faaborg:

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.

In conclusion, Microformats are easy to implement (they only require the addition of a few semantic elements to a page’s markup) and present an huge potential for extension and aggregation of the data. By using Microformats, your page’s markup becomes more human- and machine-readable.