Why I Hate Microformats

by Robert Cooper

IBM has a big article up today about working with Microformats. I know this is one of those "buzz heavy" items on the interwebs 2.0 these says. Ray Ozzie gives it a lot of play with the new Live Clipboard stuff coming out of MS -- which I admit is a hella cool idea. Pat thinks they are really cool, and Calvin has grown Tails into a whole big deal now.

The problem is, however, they are stupid. They are a hack to get around a problem that is going away VERY shortly.


James Carr
2006-07-12 10:39:56
The thing that has annoyed me about microformats is that they brand some incredibly simple thing that has been used for ages, then make it out to be something specatacular and new and go on the conference circuit making speaches on it. :)

As for css with namespaces, yes, IE does need to get off it's ass and support it, but at the same time designers must keep backwards compatibility for those that don't. Regardless, I don't see the big fus, their example is valid ... i'd simply transform it with xsl, but that's just me.

Brennan Spies
2006-07-12 11:33:08
Yup. I've wished for YEARS that I could do it the second way. Problem is, until the prevalent browsers (and you know who I'm talking about) support XHTML, you're stuck doing hacks. It's sad, really, it can't really be that hard...
Vance Dubberly
2006-07-12 14:16:54
Thank you for articulating this. Micro formats are at best the html equivalent of Duct Tape. Sure you can build a house out of the stuff, but really, why would you?

It's very dangerous to start down this path because when the duct tape becomes the standard, using the proper solutions will be frowned upon. I mean how long has it taken us to recover from using tables to control layout? Single pixel gif's to control spacing? And all the quirky little hacks that had to be implemented in HTML pages to get them to work right accross browsers. Just say NO to microformats!!!

Charles Krause
2006-07-12 15:15:31
If it were an XML world, we would use XML - which admittedly, is much better at modeling this kind of thing.

It's not an XML world on the web, unfortunately. However, current microformats translate nicely into XML, as you demonstrated. Microformat specifications won't go away if/when XML based implementations are possible. Right now they are a bit of a "duct tape" kludge, but given the state of browser support out there, they do work better than more "elegant" solutions do - and they translate with minimal effort into "bricks and timber" once "timber" becomes available.

Simon Hibbs
2006-07-13 02:06:15
Sometimes the right way to do something isn't the best way. Once Vista ships, the whole Windows using world won't instantly shift to IE 7. For better or worse, we're going to be stuck in a world where the majority of web brower users will be on IE6 or earlier for several years to come, and a large minority will be pre-IE7 for even longer.
2006-07-25 14:24:20
Does anybody remember that this (the structured approach noted above) was what the XML inventors had in mind before the markup got redirected as an application integration format?
2007-04-16 18:19:05
Will you please look at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microformats ? I suspect there's a side that this article is not telling, and it deserves mentioning in that articles Discussion ("Talk") page.
Andrey Shchekin
2007-05-21 14:21:41
The most interesting part is that IE actually supports custom tag styling for ages.
2007-09-14 06:24:28
<< There is no reason to use semantically incorrect HTML and beat up on the class attribute. >>

Microformats try to be POSH, you can't blame 'em for using div/span when nothing better is available. I can't see how they are misusing the class attribute, as it's supposed to use semantic values (this is no worse than [div class="header"] or [ul class="navigation"] used everywhere). We're not talking about class="leftcolumn" or class="boldred".

HTML does *not* have namespaces, and currently, most of the web is still using HTML. Yes, XHTML is the way to go, and has been for at least the last 5 years, but we're not there yet (and with HTML5 around the corner, I suspect XHTML won't take over the web for a while).

So we have a choice between:
-Doing things the "right way" by using a technology seldom used on the web, with the most popular browser unable to cope
-Doing things in a less elegant way, that works _right_now_, does not break anything.

I'd prefer, just like you, to see microformats disappear and correct/rich XML used instead. But we're not there yet, and waiting for MSIE to implement features is a big no-no, we know they don't care about the web, the browser wars are gone, alternative browsers won't at this point get a larger marketshare.

So following your advice means waiting until MSIE6/7 are out of the game (supposing MSIE8 supports CSS namespaces or everybody switches to a modern browser). It means waiting forever.