After performing a number of usability studies (both on average users and users with screen readers) the BBC found that using the Microformat convention of
<abbr title="...">...</abbr> to denote items like dates negatively impacted usability. This is a huge blow to the Microformats community. While this concern has been discussed for a while this is the first instance of a major corporation reneging on their previous Microformat commitment.
As an alternative the BBC seems to be examining RDFa – one of the leading “competitors” in the “embed machine-readable data in (X)HTML markup” space. Examining the basic RDFa-in-XHTML primer it’s obvious that RDFa still has a long ways to go before any sort of practical adoption by developers and designers. Riddled with advanced, or just plain confusing, terminology (XML namespaces, Dublin Core, semantic web, and not to mention the addition of many new attributes – like typeof, about, and property) it appears to be solidly entrenched in the ways that Microformats were able to shake themselves free of, allowing them to achieve widespread adoption.
It’s pretty obvious that the Microformats community is going to have to step up and prevent any sort of attrition that will occur in this situation.