My Opera's first Microformat:
Sunday, May 6, 2007 10:46:19 PM
[Edit]As of today [11.06.2007] the hack is removed to let the official implementation take it's place in not too many days. The various screen shots in the blog is proof enough for it's existence as a proof of concept hack. (CSS involved in the hack)[/Edit]
For those of you who are still clueless about what I added to my blog the other day, it is revelation day. I disabled the About box in my account prefs. and made my first sticky post instead.
By editing the user style sheet, I made that sticky post look like the old About box (yes you are looking at it to the right as you read (unless you are in the comment section, where sticky posts won't show up).
So why did I go through all this hassle just to make my own version of the box, when it looks completely the same as it used to do. The point here is not what YOU see, but what your machine (read browser) can see. For you there is no difference reading the default one, compared to the one I have made from scratch. But the new markup is formed in a very special way. It is called a Microformat, and a Microformat containing your personal information is a Microformat of type hCard.
So why would you want to mark up information like this in a special way? Well the point is that if everyone did this there would not be any problem for a browser vendor to make functionality to read contact information on any page you visit. It could for example notify you about it's existence, and ask you if you want to add it to your contact list. And in the long run it would save you lots of time in searching, copy and pasting. All this because common information was marked up in a special way.
Today there is a lot of information shared all over the web that contains more or less the same type of information, but since it is marked up with different markup from page to page you are visiting, your browser will have no clue about what it is looking at. It is just presenting it all to the screen for you as a dumb server. Just think about all the articles you are reading every day, or maybe you are searching the web to find a new employ and you read recymes all the time, or maybe trying to find out what is where and when at the next conference you will visit. If all this was marked up as Microformats, your browser could extract all the important data for you, and maybe add all the events at the conference to your scheduler, or all the resumes to your local storage database. And all you had to do was to tell the browser to do the job for you. I find this really interesting as a feature of web. Information that is just as simple for you to read as your browser.
As of today, I am not aware of one browser that has this kind of ability, though Firefox is getting it for sure. And there has been rumors (that are far from confirmed) saying that IE might get some sort of support for it as well in the near future. If Opera has any plans for this kind of feature with their next releases is unsure as usual. But only time will show.
While thinking about Opera, I get all these ideas about how well this could be integrated into the browser. Just think about all the contacts you probably have if you are using Opera's mail functionality. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to just add contacts just by browsing someones page? And you would get all their information instead of just their mail address, and hopefully a name to tag it with? Throw in a calendar in Opera, and I would never have to close down Opera except for when I am programming. And it doesn't stop here. I can see so many more possibilities but I better stop here for now. You probably want to see this working in action, don't you.
Luckily for us web users, there exists an extension originally written for the Flock browser, that also works for Firefox that can do most of this already. When I now browse my Opera blog with Firefox, a yellow icon appears in the bottom right corner. If I click it I get a panel on the left side with the extracted information that asks me what I want to do about it. There is more than one extension for Firefox that can do this, and they all do different things with the data, but that is not really the important thing here. That it works, and so easily is the point here. Only your imagination can stop you now.
So what are you waiting for? Why don't you go and add your own Microformat to your blog. Lets put some pressure on Opera to make sure they follow up. Go spread the word, and maybe if we are lucky, Opera will be the first again.