XFN - XHTML Friends Network

This post is more than 18 months old. Since technology changes to rapidly, this content may be out of date (but that's not always the case). Please remember to verify any technical or programming information with the current release.

While I continue to look at the semantic web, I can’t help but scratch my head and say “why” about some of these technologies. I feel like its still sadly lacking… with that, let me introduce…

XHTML Friends Network

XFN (website here) aims to build relationships between people on the internet using specific attribute values in the link tags. Once again, this particular method has a list of types of relationships that can be applied to build an N-N relationship.

Should I use it?

I myself am not planning on using it (well… yet). Most of my websites are not strongly ‘friend’ oriented. Instead, they are content based. There are some relationships built on pages like the JEMDiary friends page… but nothing too extreme.

Should you use it? Well… maybe.

Its kind of niche

One of the biggest ‘arguments’ for the implementation of XFN has been the ‘blog-roll’ instances on the sides of blogs. Blogs themselves are not niche - but this ‘friends list’ kind of is. I think only a small portion of users actually keep an updated blog-roll. Blogs are so widespread - especially now with media company based and editorial blogs - that keeping a ‘friends list’ would be nearly impossible. So that niche is dying.

Another large portion of the web is social networking. However, I still believe the implementation of XFN in a social networking site is a niche possibility. One of the biggest debates right now centers around the security changes on facebook. They have decided to push more information to the public internet which is causing quite a ruckus. The main point of XFN is to provide relationships to the public. So, if this protocol must be consumed, this information must be public, and must be implemented in a way that the user who is demonstrating their relationships agrees with. A questionable niche.

So, should you implement it? Hrm…

Users Must Be Disciplined

If you’re not the author of the XFN, your users may be. This means that they have to share the same discipline and understanding of the concept as you do. Take these three specific values for the attribute: “friend, met, colleague.” When you finally study the specification, it makes sense. However, the likeliness of some user specifying their relationship incorrectly with XFN without having read the instructions is great.

It probably doesn’t hurt

Except for the reason stated above (users may mis-label their relationships), there is only one scenario that I can see where I can see a problem: the potential for two sources to list different information about a relationship. But besides that, I look at XFN as sort of an after thought. I may implement it on some of my social network based sites - but very sparsely.

Your thoughts?

Return to All Posts