Today, “in the spirit of sitemaps.org“, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have announced the joint alliance of schema.org. This alliance provides a common foundation of support for a set of microdata types — some that previously existed and some that have been created as part of this initiative.
Microdata is a type of structured mark up that can be used to provide semantic meaning to content on web pages. The microdata types currently supported are documented at schema.og. You can also take a look at the announcements from each search engine on their blogs:
- Google: Introducing schema.org: Search engines come together for a richer web
- Microsoft Bing: Introducing Schema.org: Bing, Google and Yahoo Unite to Build the Web of Objects
- Yahoo: Introducing schema.org: A Collaboration on Structured Data
It appears as though the three search engines will be using this meta data solely to enhance the search results display for now, much like is already done with Google’s rich snippets and was done with Yahoo’s SearchMonkey.
This makes sense for Yahoo, as they control only the user experience of their search results now that the indexing and ranking of their search results now come from Bing. But Google and Microsoft could use the data in many other ways –such as metadata about what queries a page is relevant for and to obtain more accurate and detailed information about business listings for Google Places.
Google is, in fact, using the structured markup from microdata in certain instances, such as with its recently released recipe search. Google uses metadata about recipes (cook time, number of ingredients…) to provide a faceted navigational search.