[Revised and re-posted at 4:03pm EST]
In a collaborative effort reminiscent of sitemaps.org, Google, Yahoo! and Bing have announced the launch of schema.org. Perhaps the most significant aspect of this announcement is the particular standard they have focused on: namely, microdata.
In the Google announcement, Kavi Goel and Pravir Gupta of Google's search team say, "Historically, we’ve supported three different standards for structured data markup: microdata, microformats, and RDFa. We’ve decided to focus on just one format for schema.org to create a simpler story for webmasters and to improve consistency across search engines relying on the data."
From the Yahoo! announcement comes this: "Today’s announcement offers tremendous opportunity for growth. In addition to consolidating the schemas for the vocabularies we already support, there are schemas for more than a hundred newly created categories including movies, music, organizations, TV shows, products, places and more. We will continue to expand these categories by listening to feedback from the community and will continue publishing new schemas on a regular basis. Don’t worry if your site has already added RDFa or microformats currently supported by our Enhanced Displays program, that site will still appear with an Enhanced Display on Yahoo! – no changes required."
And Bing has this to add: "At Bing we understand the significant investment required to implement markup, and feel strongly that by partnering with Google and Yahoo! on standard schemas webmasters can be more efficient with the time they invest... Bing accepts a wide variety of markup formats today (Open Graph, microformat, etc.) for features like Tiles and will continue to do so, but by standardizing on schema.org we are looking to simplify the markup choices for webmasters and amplify the value the receive in return."
The schema.org site "provides a collection of schemas, i.e., html tags, that webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways recognized by major search providers. Search engines...rely on this markup to improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right web pages."
"A shared markup vocabulary makes [it] easier for webmasters to decide on a markup schema and get the maximum benefit for their efforts... Bing, Google and Yahoo! have come together to provide a shared collection of schemas that webmasters can use."
The authors of the Google announcement, Kavi Goel and and Pravir Gupta will be speaking at SemTech next week about Google Rich Snippets. No doubt, this news will be a hot topic!