The Twittersphere is buzzing about the Semantic Web at last grabbing onto the hearts and minds of the whole web community. It started off with a tweet from Juan Sequeda – a contributor to The Semantic Web Blog and a well-known figure in our area – that reads:
A follow-up message explains:
Follow that link and you’ll find yourself at a Bing webmaster help site that indicates Microsoft wants to play nice with whatever markup approach webmasters want to implement – microdata, microformats, or RDFa. The site mark-up overview on the page referenced says that Bing’s “crawlers do not prefer one specification over another. It’s entirely up to you to decide which of the supported specifications best fits your data.”
“Historically, we’ve supported three different standards for structured data markup: microdata, microformats, and RDFa. Instead of having webmasters decide between competing formats, we’ve decided to focus on just one format for schema.org. In addition, a single format will improve consistency across search engines relying on the data. There are arguments to be made for preferring any of the existing standards, but we’ve found that microdata strikes a balance between the extensibility of RDFa and the simplicity of microformats, so this is the format that we’ve gone with.”
Google’s approach to handling schema.org hasn’t pleased everyone. Dr. Giovanni Tummarello, CEO of Sindice LTD., was one of them. He told The Semantic Web Blog recently that at SemTech he was “complaining loudly with those from Google about the way they came up with this, because they wrote a few things on the schema.org web site that are arrogant. And unnecessarily so because you can get exactly the same results by being nicer to existing standards. They say just adopt their markup or you might confuse the crawlers. This is nonsense.” That said, Tummarello said he does believe that schema.org will become more compatible with other markup standards.
Interestingly, Microsoft itself, at the time of the schema.org announcement, didn’t specifically allude to RDFa as one of the markup formats it accepts. It pointed out that:
“Bing accepts a wide variety of markup formats today (Open Graph, microformat, etc.) for features like Tiles and will continue to do so” – though it too tilted the balance in schema.org’s favor, if less aggressively than Google, noting that “by standardizing on schema.org we are looking to simplify the markup choices for webmasters and amplify the value the receive in return.”
Indeed, Microsoft has never publicly discussed RDFa support, despite its clear interest in semantic technology for improving search going back to its purchase of Powerset in 2008. A response to a query last month about Google’s Rich Snippets testing tool not being able to generate a schema.org preview provided some insight into Microsoft’s relationship with RDFa, however.
The query, which appeared on the Google Webmaster Central site, received a response from GoodRelations product ontology creator Martin Hepp that reads:
That may still be in the works though, as Bing doesn’t include Products and offers among the scenarios for which it currently supports annotations: