BBC, Microformats and RDFa

by Griffin Caprio

One of the areas of web design that is often neglected is the accessibility of your content by impaired users. Because various technologies are used to aid those users who are impaired, you should make sure that your content is usable / readable if it's ever read aloud.

The developers over of the BBC site Programmes have supported semantically marked up data ( in the form of Microformats ) from day one. Now comes word that because of certain decisions made during the design of hCalendar and its use of the abbr, they are removing hCalendar support from the Programmes web site. Other Microformats being used will remain ( rel & hCard ). However, developer Michael Smethurst has hinted that the Programmes team might migrate over to RDFa and remove all Microformats. This is the first instance that I have heard of where a team will be moving away from Microformats and possibly embracing RDFa.

I wonder if this will become more and more of a common occurrence. As companies begin to look at technologies to apply semantics to their data, I doubt that they will want to chose a technology that limits their audience.

Now, the Microformats community could change the hCalendar. However, I'm not sure I have enough faith in the Microformats community to come to an agreement on this topic. In my short time following the various Microformats mailing lists, I quickly became disillusioned with the community and administrators. I witnessed several instances of heavy handed administration, including the banning of users. Frequently, no real reason was given and I was left w/ the impression that it wasn't much of a community after all.

I was an early fan of Microformats, but cases like this certainly make a compelling argument for the use of RDFa. Perhaps the most interesting quote from Michaels post was the fact that this decision was made by the developers themselves and not sent down via some edict:

And probably also best to note that this is not a decision that has come down from on high by the BBC equivalent of suits. The /programmes team has been concerned about this issue for a few months now and it's good to get some clarity here.


Bob DuCharme
2008-06-25 08:26:57
There's more on this issue at