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Microformats gets a push, or is it a pull?

Microformats are quick-and-dirty standards for expressing common data types. The standard example is a microformat for reviews which lets a blogger encode the expected data — name of the reviewed thing, number of stars, commentary, etc. — in a standard way so another app can harvest it and, perhaps, aggregate all the reviews of restaurants in Watertown. Microformats are developed quickly, using what’s out there as a starting point, aiming at usable but probably incomplete standards, as opposed to setting up an industry committee to argue for 12 years about what Platonic ideal of the standard.

So, today Technorati [Disclosure: I’m on the board of advisors and I’m friends with a bunch of Technoratians] announced that Technorati is going to provide searching that understands the data in microformats. For example, if you search for “chinese” within reviews, you get back reviews of Chinese restaurants but not blogs that talk about Chinese Checkers. (I assume that at some point Technorati’s microformats search — currently a research beta — will let us do fielded searches within microformat domains, e.g., have a box where we can enter dates when searching for events.)

Technorati also announced Pingerati, a service that aggregates and distributes microformat pings to anyone who wants them. So, if you have a calendar app that supports microformats, you can set it to ping Pingerati whenever you update it. Anyone who wants to build an app that uses updated calendar information can subscribe to it. (Unlike existing ping services, Pingerati is designed to work for pages that aren’t blogs as well as for blogs.) Dave Sifry, founder of Technorati, says that Pingerati is free both to pingers and to those who want to receive the pings.

This is all good news because we need more metadata. Metadata lets us surf the information tsunami. Microformats are highly useful, but they won’t be adopted unless there are apps that make use of them. Today’s announcements make it easier for others to make something out of microformat data.

Hats off to Tantek Çelik for the enormous amount of work he’s put into this, and to Technorati for enabling Tantek to do this. [Tags: ]

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