In news that will probably go unnoticed by most Facebook users: the company has begun implementing hCalendar and hCard microformats to event listings. Now you’ll be able to more easily copy the events to your calendar and when searching Google, Facebook events can now appear with rich snippets. Everyone rejoice!
While the modification may not actually be noticed by users, Marshall Kirkpatrick effectively articulates the theoretical implications if executed properly by Facebook:
If Facebook were to take one more step and allow websites other than the big three search engines to index its events listings, then that could tip the scales and move everyone in the industry to understand places around the world in the same simple terms. Joe’s Diner in Denver could be understood to be the same place across Facebook, Foursquare and a world of other location-aware applications if only one giant player in location listings had high-quality Place database marked up in the hCard microformat and publicly accessible. Is Facebook going to do that? Probably not.
Facebook’s decision to implement microformats probably isn’t keeping you up at night and for good reason. Access to this structured data is limited to a few big search players, namely Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The implementation of this data also takes place without the consumers being aware. Some may argue that this is part of a broader shift toward the “Semantic Web”, but the restrictive nature of Facebook’s implementation leaves much to be desired.
If you happen to believe that structured code is the path toward a more interconnected web, there’s a good chance you’re a programmer. While search engine optimization experts and a few others may take advantage of correct HTML formatting, most people could care less. Then again, most individuals now communicate on top of other platforms that take all the work out of structuring the information and making it available to others.
For now this is a step in the direction of interoperability among internet services, but it’s definitely one milestone among many.