Mads Kristensen posted what can only be described as an impassioned plea to ASP.NET developers to embrace the Semantic Web. Entitled "Wake up ASP.NET developers!" the post practically begs developers to include Microformats in their current and future products. Here is a quote...
What puzzles me again and again is that only a fraction of web developers use microformats or any other semantic formats. In the light of how easy and useful it is, it leaves me saddened. It is not a duty to implement semantic mark-up; it is a privilege to help drive the future of the web – and with a minimal effort as an added bonus.
So, if you have a website containing user profiles, calendar events or any other structured data, then please tag them up with the appropriate microformat and XFN tags. If you want to do a little more, then FOAF is a good place to start. Remember, it starts with us, the developers, so wake up! (the lack of the word 'please' is not accidental, although appropriate).
First let me say that I'm a huge supporter of the ideas behind the Semantic Web. Always have been. In fact, there are very few things that can make me angry but I still grit my teeth when I think of the hit job that was done on RSS 1.0 (the Semantic Web geared RDF variant of RSS).
But the Semantic Web, like many of these online initiatives, isn't fully thought out. The problem here is that people love to focus on the fun stuff like functionality but when it comes to the tedious stuff no one wants to volunteer for the job. So it remains undone which in turn keeps a good idea from being a viable technology.
Take security for instance. Microformats, by definition, are a way to make it easier for computers to read and process data. So what's to stop a spammer from using your Microformat against you? In an age where most web sites have to use images to display simple e-mail addresses how can anyone suggest putting an hCard (which is the Microformat for a business card) on their site?
I've brought this up to every hCard proponent I know and have never managed to get a satisfactory response.
Security isn't the only issue either. Another is future compatibility between the two disparate Semantic Web camps. Despite what many think there is no consensus behind Microformats in the Semantic community. Tim Berners-Lee (arguably the leader of the Semantic Web movement) endorses both Microformats and RDFa encoding even though they do the same thing. This makes it hard for a developer to implement one side of the equation without fearing a rewrite.
Truthfully there are tons of issues with Microformats that have gone unaddressed. Difficulty in validating plain xhtml, lack of a standardized approval process for new Microformats, and the difficulty of extensibility are just a few of the dozens of problems out there.
This all brings me back to my original point which is that no one has bothered to look at anything but the fun part of Microformats. All the other tedious issues have been ignored and those issues are what keep me from embracing Microformats. If the Semantic community wants that to change they need to address realistic ways of implementing this technology.