What are the hCard and vCard Microformats?

The vCard microformat is used for creating contact information files. It is a way of identifying small blocks of data in order to make them portable and thus able to be embedded in contexts using (X)HTML, RSS, Atom or anywhere (X)HTML is enabled. The idea was first proposed in 1995 by the Versit Consortium, and ownership of the format was transferred to Internet Mail Consortium the following year. It is widely used to transport contact information files via internet, email, instant messaging, and bluetooth. The hCard microformat is a file format based on the vCard format which is used to embed and publish the contact data in web pages and to enable that information to be searched, viewed, and downloaded in the context of web pages and search engines.

The vCard uses simple designations to structure data such as name, address, phone number and to embed, transmit, and display such information in a manner that is meaningful and useful. The required fields for the vCard format are BEGIN:VCARD, VERSION:2.v, N:Last, First, FN:Full Name (as it would be viewed), END:VCARD. This tells the computer that this is a vCard file, which can now be copied to any (X)HTML, RSS, and Atom-based application, such as an address book. More detailed data files containing anything from address and telephone number to email addresses, birthdays, URLs, and photos can be formatted using existing HTML tags and then using the vCard designations BEGIN:VCARD through END:VCARD, identified as micro-data files and used more efficiently.

The hCard microformat is a manner of marking up a vCard manually or using an hCard generator, and enabling the structured data contained in the vCard files to be machine-readable, making it more manageable from a development and user standpoint. The formatting for hCard takes the information already coded in the vCard, and wraps it in the standard class name div, which identifies this block of data as an hCard file. Each piece of information in the data file is then designated with the attributes div or span, such as: <div class="vcard"><span class="fn">First Last</span></div>. The attribute div tells the computer that this is an hCard. The file as a whole can then be embedded in a web page where it can be picked up in searches, viewed on the web page, converted to a vCard file, and downloaded or copied to an address book or such application.