Microformats may be the most exciting and important project currently being advanced in the next generation of the web. This is beyond Web 2.0 to 3.0. Yet, like many of the great web 2.0 advances it is rooted in ideas that have been around for a long time and microformats are already in practice. Technorati has created a microformat search engine. Intrigued?
Microformats relate to the theory of the semantic web. Many of the smartest people in the field including Tim Berners-Lee have been working on their development the past few years. Why is this important? Microformats are all about problem solving. They create ways of delivering relevance and improving user experience of the web. The simplest example I know is the nofollow link. This microformat was created to eliminate spam, improving the user experience and the web. A more advanced example is this mashup that uses microformats to geocode data and create a useful itinerary/calendar for a trip.
Of course what I lay awake thinking about is how can microformats be applied to marketing to provide relevance and great experiences. Keeping in mind that 3.0 will be about pushing (feeding) relevant data, the scenario that follows is not too far out of reach.
Imagine you are planning a business trip to San Francisco. If your calendar is marked up with hCalendar and your contact info is in hCard and you’ve agree to accept RSS from Kayak, a few moments after you ad the trip to your calendar you might be fed a message with a number of travel packages from which you can immediately book. These will include airfare on your preferred airlines, hotels in your preferred hotels and a rental car. All with your frequent travel numbers already set-up. Just one-click order whatever package you choose, you’ll be good to go and the itinerary you choose will be automatically added to you calendar. Talk about push! This is relevant push, and a great user experience.
As the web advances, the way people use it will change. Management of feeds, tags and other applications will create experiences that are delivered based on defined rules and greater relevance. This will once again redefine the way marketers engage users. Expect this change to come at an even brisker pace then we’ve already experienced with 2.0. Is your business thinking in these terms yet? What microformats you can create to solve business problems and create better experiences for your customers?