Insert microformat Here

Album Cover: Abbey Road

"She's killer-diller when she's dressed to the hilt."
The Beatles / Polythene Pam

Posted on April 24, 2007 8:20 PM in Web Development
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

While looking up some Coldplay-related news tonight, I stumbled upon this article over at the Telegraph. The article's main content is followed by what seems to be a commonplace on news sites and blogs alike these days, a series of links allowing readers to quickly post the story on popular social news sites like Digg, Newsvine and several others. The Telegraph example in particular is actually fairly clean. I'm sure many of us have seen the icon farms that some sites tack on to the end of their content to allow this type of social interaction on a much wider (and much more annoying) scale.

The problem with this approach, especially as the web evolves and more and more social sites participate in link sharing, saving, commenting, etc., is that it becomes harder and harder for any one particular provider of content to ensure that users have one-click access to their site of choice. For instance, if you leave out a link to, your chances of getting me to interact in any way are pretty slim (other than the fact that I already have a "post to" button on my browser's bookmark toolbar).

As more competitors pop their heads up (especially the ones that get really, really popular like Digg did), it becomes increasingly more difficult to provide majority coverage using the method employed by the Telegraph in the aforementioned example.

So what is the solution?

In my opinion, microformats are the ideal solution to this problem. As a provider of content, you can provide a single microformat along with your content that UAs like Firefox can watch out for on the user's behalf. When such a microformat is detected, a toolbar item, extension, or some other chrome-resident entity can change slightly (I'd leave this behavior up to smarter minds) to indicate to the user that the content is ready to post to their social news or bookmarking site of choice. The list of supported sites could be similar to the list of options you see under your browser's search bar in that there is a default set (for users who don't know about or aren't interested in the capability of adding their own custom providers) that is extensible.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how microformats solve these types of problems as well as the many others that people haven't quite thought up yet.


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