Firefox’s Alex Faaborg has raised quite a few eyebrows with his piece on Microformats and the possibilities that exist for these platforms in terms of browser implementation (Firefox3?)…
4. The Web Browser as an Information Broker (Firefox 3?)
Much in the same way that operating systems currently associate particular file types with specific applications, future Web browsers are likely going to associate semantically marked up data you encounter on the Web with specific applications, either on your system or online.
This means the contact information you see on a Web site will be associated with your favorite contacts application, events will be associated with your favorite calendar application, locations will be associated with your favorite mapping application, phone numbers will be associated with your favorite VOIP application, etc.
While others are chewing on what browser implementation of microformats means for the online experience in general, I have been pondering what it means for online marketing specifically.
First, let’s look at what microformats actually are, as this can be confusing…
One of my online maharaja’s, Chris Messina (check out his post on ebates) says…
Microformats are simple codes that you can use to identify specific kinds of data, like people or events, in your webpages.
Alex points out that microformats are not limited to just addresses or contact info, but can cover a wide variety of topics with relative ease, and allow people looking to easily find the things they are looking for via web searches…
There are lots of different microformats, ranging from very fundamental types of information like contacts, locations, and events, to the slightly more domain specific, like reviews and resumes, to the very domain specific, like wines.
So, if microformats can be used to help others find the content (or offers) you are providing, why hasn’t there been widespread adoption in online marketing? Again, Alex discusses the potential of microformats in an aggregated shopping site…
For instance, if you want to sell something, you can blog about it using an hListing, and a site like edgeio will find it when it aggregates classified advertisements across the Web. Similarly, the microformat hReview allows the creation of review aggregation sites, and XFN (XHTML Friends Network) allows the creation of social network aggregation sites.
Edgeio is just one of a growing number of shopping aggregation sites (think 77Blue or Jellyfish). Instead of going to a centralized hub where users are present in order to show off your offer or product, what if the users came to your site based on a qualified and highly interested search? The eCPM would be enormous if this happened en masse for your program.
Eventually, application of RSS and microformats signals the death bell (it’s not doom and gloom, it’s evolution to quote Pearl Jam), for networks ranging from the big affiliate networks to the CPA networks.
Just as blogging has allowed content creators to do their creative acts and have the traffic come to their own blog rather than having to post up their content on a large centralized site or forum, widespread implementation of RSS and microformats will allow merchants from the Madison Ave variety all the way to the small merchants depending on CPA networks for volume to publish their goods, services or programs on their own site and have the traffic come to them.
This will not be immediate.
It will be a slow and quiet revolution which will start with the smaller merchants who are innovating and looking beyond the traditional paradigm of partnering with a network and the network’s collection of affiliates and publishers in order to get traffic. These innovators will see the positive results of pull, rather than push, marketing online. Eventually, they will move away from the networks and case studies will be written. As this happens more and more, the merchants on the next rung up will notice the change and start reading those case studies and eventually Madison Ave will figure it out. It will be slow, but it will be from the bottom up. Throw widgets in the stew, and it’s a spicy gumbo for change.
It will change online marketing forever.
It will change affiliate marketing for the better.