Search Rivals Agree To Develop Common Standards

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Microsoft Bing, Google and Yahoo Search have developed schemas to specify special search features

Search engine rivals Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have put aside their competitive instincts to collaborate on a structured data markup standard for Webmasters to use.

Search Result Rich Pickings

The problem they are tackling involves “rich snippets”. Search engines show an abstract, or snippet, for each site found in a search. A rich snippet is a specially formatted HTML label within a website script that a specific search engine will pick out and automatically format along with the standard snippet.

Rich snippets are special features such as a picture, an index of website pages, star ratings or prices. These are then displayed to make the search result stand out by adding this “rich” content.

The problem is that each search engine specifies different ways to indicate the same type of rich snippet and it is difficult to cater for Google, Bing and Yahoo at the same time. Webmasters tend to format for one, with Google being the most popular.

All three companies have now agreed to support the microdata structured data markup standard, and are encouraging all Webmasters to start to adopt the schemas that have been developed. At least for the time being, currently supported standards, such as microformats and RDFa, will still be supported to maintain compatibility for current sites.

By forming a joint website, Schema.org, the three companies have created a shared resource for publicising the new schemas. Webmasters can use the site as a reference to see how their pages should be formatted to take advantage of the rich snippets and ensure they will show up on all the main search engines.

The site has example scripting for the adopted standard – and shows how this varies from standard HTML. It will also serve as a contact point for suggesting and developing future schemas.

Current schemas available include people, places, events and creative works.

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