What is Meta Content Framework (MCF)?

What is Meta Content Format (MCF)?

From The Search Engine Report
June 6, 1997

Note: The MCF proposal below has now been superceded
by the RDF proposal. To learn more about this, see:

The New Meta Tags Are Coming -- Or Are They?
The Search Engine Report, Dec. 4, 1997

MCF is a way to represent the content of a web site, in a much more sophisticated manner than can be done using the existing, commonly-used meta tags. For example, those using a MCF-enabled browser can view a 3D "fly-through" map of a site, assuming the proper coding is in place.

Netscape submitted a proposal to the W3 Consortium on June 6th supporting the use of Meta Content Framework, or MCF, which may cause MCF to become more widely used.

Netscape has said it plans to make its products MCF-enabled, and supposedly Microsoft and others would follow suit, if MCF is adopted as a standard by W3C. Currently, those wishing to view existing MCF-enhanced content need to use obscure browsers, such as Apple's HotSauce.

MCF has provisions that are supposed to make it easier for search engines to index web sites. For example, it could provide a site summary on a single page. The summary could provide URLs and descriptions of every page within a web site, saving the search engines from having to crawl and store all the pages from the site for searching purposes.

However, it's uncertain whether search engine companies would also adopt MCF formats to determine what and how to index web site content.

Existing meta tags are not used by all search engines and are often abused by webmasters to misrepresent web site content. There's no reason to expect MCF tags to perform better. Indexing every word on every page can be a time consuming, hardware-intensive activity. But it has the advantage of making it harder to "trick" a search engine.

Complicating matters is the fact that there are several different proposals on how MCF should be implemented. Netscape's is but one of several.

Background Resources

HotSauce Home Page

An excellent starting place for those who want to learn more about MCF, with an emphasis on the original MCF specification. Links and information galore.

How to Solve the Web's Search Problems… Forever
ZD Net AnchorDesk, 3/17/97

The article seems to think MCF will be nirvana for searching the web, if only Netscape and Microsoft support it. Those companies really have little to do with it. It's the search engines that could make or break MCF as an indexing resource. And even if adopted, nirvana could be lost due to problems described above.

Netscape MCF Press Release
Netscape, June 13, 1997

MCF Proposals and Specifications

Apple's Original MCF Specification Paper

MCF Version 0.95, the original specification.

NetFolder MCF Specification
NetFolder, March 10, 1997

MCF Version 1.0, which builds on and enhances the original Apple specification.

Netscape MCF/XML Proposal to W3C
Netscape, June 6, 1997

Technically, this is a note to the Netscape submission, but it is far more informative that the actual submission document. Skip to the examples section to by pass all the technical stuff and get a sense of what MCF is about.

An MCF Tutorial (Netscape)

More background and help about the Netscape MCF proposal.

Microsoft "Web Collections" Proposal to W3C
Microsoft, March 10, 1997

It's not called MCF, but the Microsoft Web Collections submission to the W3C shares some of the same goals of representing web pages via meta attributes.