Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards. Instead of throwing away what works today, microformats intend to solve simpler problems first by adapting to current behaviors and usage patterns (e.g. XHTML, blogging).

A microformat (sometimes abbreviated μF) is a web-based approach to semantic markup which seeks to re-use existing HTML/XHTML tags to convey metadata[1] and other attributes in web pages and other contexts that support (X)HTML, such as RSS. This approach allows software to process information intended for end-users (such as contact information, geographic coordinates, calendar events, and the like) automatically.

Although the content of web pages is technically already capable of “automated processing”, and has been since the inception of the web, such processing is difficult because the traditional markup tags used to display information on the web do not describe what the information means.[2] Microformats can bridge this gap by attaching semantics, and thereby obviate other, more complicated, methods of automated processing, such as natural language processing or screen scraping. The use, adoption and processing of microformats enables data items to be indexed, searched for, saved or cross-referenced, so that information can be reused or combined.[2]

As of 2010[update] microformats allow the encoding and extraction of events, contact information, social relationships and so on. More are being developed.