The following contains unfair generalizations about developers, rough language and a bad attitude. Dear reader, this is tough love from yours truly.

You’re participating in the stagnation of the World Wide Web and you hold the human race hostage.

Ouch, that was a bit harsh, but it probably got your attention. That’s important because what I want to address is no laughing matter. There seem to be a huge unwillingness among ASP.NET developers to participate in evolving the web. This is not acceptable and surely not understandable since the web is what brings food on the table for most ASP.NET developers.

The hostage situation

It seems that other developers are much better to push the web forward than our camp is. Python, PHP, RoR and even Perl developers seem to be much more ideological in their approach to web development and makes a bigger effort in evolving it. That might be because these languages are more common in universities. In the meanwhile, ASP.NET devs just sit back and watch it happen without contributing or maybe even caring about it. That is not a flattering attribute by any means.

In case you are wondering, I’m talking about the semantic web or Web 3.0 if you will. Whenever I have written about it, no one really seems to care. Most other .NET bloggers haven’t written about it and the online discussions rarely have ASP.NET devs joining in. As I see it, ASP.NET developers don’t care about the future of the platform they work with every single day and that is a crime.

It’s a crime because you as a developer limit the billions of web users from utilizing all the wonderful possibilities of the semantic web. It’s a crime because you hold them hostage for personal convenience. It’s more convenient to sit back than to learn something new, but this time it’s different. This is not equivalent to learning LINQ or the MVC Framework. This is bigger than you and it’s bigger than the client/company you are working for. This is what will define our online future.

It’s growing

You might think I’m being a bit dramatic about this matter and you are absolutely correct. According to Tim Berners-Lee, the semantic web is growing exponentially these days, but the ASP.NET camp is sleeping through it. The problem is that it will make the growth slower and then we are back at the hostage situation. If we don’t help push native support for these things in the next version of the .NET Framework and Visual Studio, then we become even further alienated and left behind. This matter demands dramatic change in the way we approach web development, so I think it is more than justified to be dramatic.

The semantic web is starting to become useful due to its growth lately, but for it to become truly useful, it has to be widely adopted by big, medium and small websites containing any structured data worth sharing (since it’s on the Internet in the first place, it most likely is worth sharing).

Make a small effort

What puzzles me again and again is that only a fraction of web developers use microformats or any other semantic formats. In the light of how easy and useful it is, it leaves me saddened. It is not a duty to implement semantic mark-up; it is a privilege to help drive the future of the web – and with a minimal effort as an added bonus.

So, if you have a website containing user profiles, calendar events or any other structured data, then please tag them up with the appropriate microformat and XFN tags. If you want to do a little more, then FOAF is a good place to start. Remember, it starts with us, the developers, so wake up! (the lack of the word 'please' is not accidental, although appropriate).

Semantic fun-facts

Did you know that Yahoo has a new search engine in beta that utilizes microformats in a very cool way?
Did you know that Technorati has an hCard microformat parser service?
Did you know that Google has a Social Graph API that takes advantage of microformats and FOAF?
Did you know that LinkedIn is the largest publisher of the hResume microformat?
Did you know that the Operator toolbar for Firefox let’s you utilize microformats on any web page?
Did you know that I've written a guide to implementing microformats in ASP.NET?