Here is an excerpt from their homepage:
Many applications, especially search engines, can benefit greatly from direct access to this structured data. On-page markup enables search engines to understand the information on web pages and provide richer search results in order to make it easier for users to find relevant information on the web. […] A shared markup vocabulary makes it easier for webmasters to decide on a markup schema and get the maximum benefit for their efforts. So, in the spirit of sitemaps.org, search engines have come together to provide a shared collection of schemas that webmasters can use.
I am posting this here in the hopes that maybe Kathy can help explain it to the class, but also as a potential resource since many of us are working in the world of publishing, and this markup “microdata” seems like it may be a useful tool to implement in some of the html language we could possible put in our blog posts. (Kathy, Am I on the right track here?)…The documentation page is a richly informative introduction to what this toolkit is and how to use it.
From what I understand, this new set of tags allows search engines to understand the content of our webpages more like the human brain. The codes we can insert allow for an organization of information that will more closely match what people would be searching for in a search engine and allows the search engine to be smarter about organizing our content and producing it to match searches more correctly. I think it is slightly different than SEO, in that, while including these tags may optimize your site, to some extent, it also appears as another way of telling the search engine what the specific post or page is about to begin with.
Think of it maybe like hyper-powered content. The first example Schema.org uses is the film Avatar. The backend content of the website doesn’t just have the word Avatar, but the new markup tools tell the search engine that this is about the movie, not a book or another kind of avatar (a Buddhist one, for example!). This means that you do not need to dumb down your presented content to the reader to explicitly say “The film Avatar”…these tags allow you to do the talking behind the scenes so you can implement the proper tone for the level of conversation expected of your readership.
If you want to get really confused really fast, take a brief look at the comprehensive list of topics that this markup covers!
But perhaps this set of tools is intended for a bit more advanced website coding. What do you think? Will this be useful to you when you are discussing books and materials on your own project sites?