The history of Schema: towards an easy to understand web

The history of Schema: towards an easy to understand web • Yoast

Edwin Toonen

Edwin is a strategic content specialist. Before joining Yoast, he spent years honing his skill at The Netherlands’ leading web design magazine.

Today, it seems that everyone is talking about Schema as being the next hot thing. It has a rich history, and it took a long while for it to gain momentum. Talk of a machine-readable web started when the internet was still in its infancy. It was Sir Tim Berners-Lee — the computer scientist best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web — himself who dreamt of a place full of readable data, neatly linked. Years later, we are working towards that goal, thanks to a vocabulary called Schema. This article tells you a bit more about how we got here.

Before we begin: we know that Schema, structured data and rich snippets can feel a bit technical from time to time. What are they, how do you use them and what can you do with them? To help you better understand what rich results can bring you, we’ve enlisted the help of someone special. So, meet your guide here at Yoast when it comes to structured data:

Meet Rich Snippet

Hi, the name is Rich Snippet! Just like the rich snippets in Google, I love to stand out. And this is exactly how rich snippets work: we’re visual, cool and hard to miss. Which is why we get way more clicks than normal search results.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to copy my exact style (not everyone can pull off this awesome suit). I’m just here to tell you that it pays off to stand out, with rich snippets of your own!

Back to the future

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal on how he thought CERN — the European Organization for Nuclear Research — could prevent loss of information. He suggested a ‘mesh’ or a web of links of available knowledge in CERN and who’s responsible for what. His proposal struck a chord, and Berners-Lee was commissioned by CERN to build this system. This would evolve into a little-known thing called the World Wide Web. Of course, he also made the markup language HTML and the software to ‘browse’ the web.

In his initial proposal, Berners-Lee makes it clear that it’s not just about linking information. It is just as essential to have information about what these links mean and to form connections from these. He also explicitly states that:

“We should work toward a universal linked information system, in which generality and portability are more important than fancy graphics techniques and complex extra facilities.”

Tim Berners-Lee

Berners-Lee might not have been aware of it at the time, but his proposal was the start of something big. Something most of us can’t imagine life without. And although his initial focus was not on fancy graphics, they did manage to sneak in when more people got involved.

Yoast SEO & Schema.org

At Yoast, we’re true believers in the power of Schema. And that’s

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This article was written by Edwin Toonen and originally published on SEO blog • Yoast.

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