Microsoft Gives Microformats a Little Oomph!

Historically, it hasn’t been very often that I’ve been able to tip my hat to Microsoft for open web innovation. Today though is one of those times that I get to do so. John Allsopp, one of Microformats’s biggest supporters, mentioned today that Microsoft’s designer/developer community, Mix Online, has developed a IE toolbar called Oomph.

Oomph, much like Operator in Firefox, pulls microformatted information from a page and allows the user to make use of this data by offering options like being able to export contact information, map addresses, and add events to your calendar.

That would be enough in itself to get my attention…Microsoft has not typically been the most open of companies, and despite Gates’ declaration that the web needs Microformats, they really hadn’t done much to advance its’ use. Seeing their developer community get behind Microformats with the toolbar and a couple of nice Microformats articles is very encouraging.

However, there’s more to this story. In addition to the IE toolbar, a cross-browser Javascript implementation of Oomph was created. The toolkit, which makes use of JQuery, provides the same functionality of Oomph no matter the browser being utilized.

What’s so wonderful about the way the Oomph toolkit functions is that the useful data is all right there in the browser window. Without the visitor leaving the site, they can grab a vcard of your contact information, see a listing of upcoming events, or make use of Visual Earth and view a map of a location.

This is, I think, a fairly major move. The beauty of Microformats is how easy it is to make your content more meaningful, and more useful. By providing similar data in a specific format, it significantly decreases the effort necessary to extract that data, and then use it. Having a cross-browser implementation of a script that makes use of this data to enhance its’ functionality is really a nice feature and a great way to show off the value of using Microformats.

What’s best is that since the toolkit makes use of Javascript and CSS for the effects and layout, we can modify the functionality and appearance for usage on our own sites. Technorati already offered services to help us extract contact information or event information, but the Oomph toolkit expands upon that functionality and allows us to offer even more enhanced options for visitors.

All in all, I am very pleased by this development. Microformats is such a valuable technology that is long overdue for mainstream implementation. It’s nice to see yet another big supporter coming through to help it get there. Along with Technorati’s tools and the fantastic Optimus Microformats transformer by Dmitry Baranovskiy, the resouces are in place and it should be interesting to see the ways these tools are utilized to provide a better user experience for visitors.