Thinking out loud: semantic CSS

There is a concept I have been running around since college. While reading into the semantic web and technology you see al kinds of great concepts. A major drawback for me has always been the amount of effort it would take a development team to actually be semantic web ready. Either create a shadow website or complex XML standards based structure with semantic value, or use XHTML with namespaced attributes. More recently using micro formats and specific predefined CSS class names has become trending. But all have downsides: They aren’t easy on the developer for whom semantics is only one of the dozens of standards we need to adhere to.

Looking at all these methods they either seem tedious to implement (XML feeds, XHTML attributes), limited (XFN) or restrictive (microformats) . At minimum to get a proper adaptation rate you would expect technology to be flexible, easy to implement and play well with all the other front-end frameworks and plugins we are bound to be using nowadays.

Conceptually, although CSS itself is currently used for styling, a sibbling could easily be created: Semantic Style Sheets.

Using CSS selectors we could add metadata to existing or legacy web content in a unobtrusive manner:

.profile .email,
.post .author .author-email {
ontology: hcard-email url(http://microformats.org/wiki/hcard#email)
}

I agree, the method needs some work to properly integrate with the ontology repositories available. From a front-end developer point of view it seems to bring many benefits, although it would require some additional effort on the tooling part.

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