As part of its move toward a more open search platform, Yahoo announced today that it will begin supporting microformats and other semantic Web standards. Site owners can markup pages with microformats like hCard, hCalendar, hReview, hAtom and XFN to the HTML code on a page, or create structured feeds using RDF.
By implementing these open standards, site owners can classify certain elements on the page as contact information, events, reviews, episodic content, etc. Yahoo can take the structured content and more easily incorporate it into their index.
Sites like LinkedIn are already using microformats, but there is currently no incentive for site owners to do so, according to Amit Kumar, director of product management for Yahoo Search.
"The data is already there, we just need to give people a reason to identify it. Content owners want to expose their structured data, but so far there's been no killer consumer application giving them a reason to do it. Search can be that killer app," Kumar said.
By marking up a page with microformats, Yahoo can better index the content and its relationship to other parts of the site. Yahoo will then be able to surface that content in more relevant ways, such as with the upcoming "Search Monkey" platform that will allow site owners to build plug-ins for Yahoo Search that will enhance the site owner's listing in Yahoo's search results.
Search Monkey will be the first use of structured data by Yahoo, but they could potentially be used to affect other parts of the search results or ranking algorithms in the future, according to Kumar. Yahoo will provide more details at an upcoming developer conference it's planning in the coming weeks.