What is FreeFormat

FreeFormat is an approach to semantically annotate Web pages. Instead of reauthoring the Web contents as Microformat does, the semantic annotations/markups are managed in a standalone layer which is shared and collaboratively edited by Web users.

On the Web, nearly all pages are authored with some kind of markup languages. The traditional markup tags are for presenting the contents on Web browsers. In order for software to automatically process the contents, additional metadata are neccessary to tell what about the contents.

A few approaches emerged to convey semantics of the contents. Microformat, one major approach, seeks to re-use existing XHTML and HTML tags to convey metadata and other attributes.

Despite Microformat is an open community, it is more like a standard body. A micoformat can be published by any community member, while it makes sense only when it is well accepted by enough members. It must take a considerable time to turn to be a facto standard. Unfortunately, the Web is booming up and cannot bear to wait for a new standard to be voted. Further more, after a microformat has been accepted as a facto standard, it costs too much to re-author the existing Web pages.

In fact, each of the Web content authors are annotating the published contents with markup tags and attributes all the way. Most of the time, the annotations are for special presenting effects. For example, an author may annotate a content snippet with a special value of class, one of HTML attributes, to display it in a special background colour with the help of CSS. In fact, the special display effects always imply some semantics and try to make them more understandable. In summary, the existing annotations are valuable to be mined for semantics.

Every authors annotate the published contents freely in some degree. There should be an approach to recognize and register the free semantic annotations. FreeFormat is just the one. FreeFormat mines the semantics from the free annotations and format them into semantic structures which are managed and hosted on the Internet. As a result, a metadata repository or a knowledge base is built up and acts as a semantics register center. All can published their own semantic structures for their contents, which can instruct 3rd party software to automatically process the contents. As the repository becomes larger and larger, it can be viewed as a semantic layer covering the underlying Web contents.

FreeFormat, invented by GooSeeker, must be an effective approach to reformat the contents on the Web. MetaCamp server, implemented by GooSeeker, is a Web-based application managing the metadata repository and provide many collaborative tools to community members to share the semantic structures.

MetaSeeker Toolkit V3.x has fully implemented FreeFormat. Please refer the release notes for detailed information.