Kilian Valkhof

Building tools that make developers awesome.

Rel for practical use: XPN

CSS & HTML, Web, 22 December 2006, 2 minute read

The rel attribute is an awesome idea: To define the relationship to the page you are linking to. Unfortunately, there is not much practical use for it, outside blogs or communities. Sure, “Friend“, “Met” and “Colleague” are nice, but it doesn’t really add anything outside the blogosphere.

Current “practical” use

I for one don’t feel inclined to add a rel to a single link on my client’s pages. The fact that anything beyond rel="nofollow" doesn’t do anything, doesn’t help either. Besides, nofollow is not something you want on your clients website (A “please, do follow!” would be much appreciated, though ;) ).

I am aware that there are various other uses for the rel attribute, but they all don’t seem to do anything yet, apart from “being there”.

You can already define a lot of relationships through the XFN. But to use rel in a business setting, you need more ways to identify business relationships.


Perhaps not thought the Xhtml Friends Network, but perhaps through such a thing as the “Xhtml Professional Network”, we can expand the uses of the rel attribute.

Rel="client" would be an excellent way to define the links in your portfolio. Rel="developer" would be a good way to link to your own website, for example in the footer of your clients website. Of course, rev would work the other way around.

What does it add, then?

This together would form a nice basis for a “sitemadeby:” search. Next to that, the XPN could be used to “take over” the professional part of XFN, which seems a bit of an outsider in the current system.

So, what do you think of the idea of an XPN? It’s simple and easy, and I think it would sure add to the usefulness of the rel attribute. Do you know any other relations that could be added to the XPN?

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  1. We could do…

    Partner, client, designer/developer…design team?

    There’s already a meta thingy for author, and there’s a rel=”self” i think.

    I dunno, we’re still limited if we add an XPN (unless we branch into saying branding client or website client – which sounds cheesy) because there are fewer professional relationships than social relationships. But what if we made the rel=”” attribute open? I could say something like <a href=”Kilian” rel=”MINTPAGES BUDDY”> and totally get away with it!

  2. Meta tags have been practically abandoned because of mis-use, and they do not give any semantical meaning to links (which is the whole point).

    You can already get away with that rel, but that was not the point. The rel attribute is open for any sort of relationship. Rel="guy-that-sold-me-something-on-ebay" is a valid rel, too.

    The point is that, with a microformat such as XFN, or like I am proposing, XPN, you standardise the way people use the rel attribute. And by standardising you can depend on it, making things like “sitemadeby:” search queries possible.

  3. My thought would be to extend XFN with these new relationship options, specifically under the Professional sub-head. I’d email any or all of the authors of the XFN spec (Eric, Tantek or Matt) to get their opinion or direction.

  4. Thank you for your comment, Johnathan. (sorry it got moderated, it had more then two links, and I’m all new with this wordpress stuff)

    The only gripe I see here is that, in my opinion, the “professional” and the “friends” do/should not match. I wouldn’t want to define my relationships to clients using a friends network. (Not all of them, at least)

    Perhaps a general list of rel attributes would be a nice idea. I’m sure going to take on your tip about e-mailing those three people.

    I’ve also been thinking about a couple of more additions concerning freelancers, and some way to see what type of developer made a website (rel="developer freelancer" or rel="developer company").

  5. Well, yeah, that would be nice. Lemme know if you want any more help with it!

  6. Reapplying the ‘rel’ attribute…

    Note: a demo of what this post may look like with my new design. Sorry for making things so cluttered! This is a post in response to Kilian’s recent post about the possible creation of an XPN. Hopefully, this……

  7. […] Friday I finally signed up for the microformats mailinglist, and it appears that my idea of an XPN has fallen quite good. Unknown to me, there were already some small discussions about a similar […]

  8. Does XPN really need to be separate? It would make sense to define all the relationships in one place and then various services could choose which “categories” to enable to the end-users. I’m very keen to extend XFN / XPN ideas as I have real-world clients in 50 countries who want this stuff and have loads of ideas to contribute.