OK, Peter Caputa, you pushed me over the edge with this one:
Exactly. Microformats could be as big an innovation as databases were.
If databases let us store information. Microformats let us access the world's databases. Potentially!
Yes, APIs do this too. But, microformats make the database (or data store) distributed. Not controlled by one entity.pc4media: MicroFormats Enable Distributed Applications!
Umm. OK. Except....all the microformats that are going to be in wide usage are going to be auto-generated by dynamic systems of some kind (e.g. WordPress, Drupal). Which run on databases. Which can just as easily use an API directly or generate a standard format (e.g. vCard, vCal, etc.) that *works today*.
I'm not against microformats. Chris and I had a long discussion in Portland about this, wherein I couldn't make my point clearly. The usefulness that I have seen is some Greasemonkey scripts that take hCard and hCal and automatically create....vCard and vCal.
For the time being, these standard formats are well understand by lots of applications. Double-click them, and your local OS will "do stuff".
I think Chris' point is that eventually, the browser will be able to understand all of these things natively, while parsing. Well, except, I don't want my browser to be one big bloated app that does everything. We've been there before, and it sucks. See also: Firefox, Thuderbird, Sunbird, etc.
For now, I'm sitting microformats out. We'll happily support them and generate them (and yes, having a common layout from a design perspective is useful), it's just that it's easier to build distributed apps today by using APIs. Which are distributed.
Please bang me about the head if there is something I'm missing here.