Introducing Operator

Introducing Operator, a Microformat Detection Extension for Firefox 2

Today Mozilla Labs is releasing Operator, a microformat detection extension developed by Michael Kaply at IBM. Operator demonstrates the usefulness of semantic information on the Web, in real world scenarios.


Here are some examples of things you can do with this release of Operator, and with the Web as it exists today.

Yahoo! Local Plusoperator Your Address Book

With Operator you can send the phone number of your favorite pizza place from Yahoo! Local to your address book, without having to type anything. Click through for the full image:

Plusoperator Calendar Plusoperator Maps

If you view an event at you can easily add the event to your calendar to see if you are free, or map the location of the event to see where it will take place.


Blog Post Tag
Plusoperator Flickr

Let’s say you are viewing Fred’s post about the Mozilla lanyards given out at the Firefox Summit, and you decide you want to view more photos of the Firefox Summit. With Operator, you can easily navigate from Fred’s post to the “Firefox Summit” tag on Flickr.



Plusoperator Maps

Now let’s say you want to know where the above picture was taken. Because the photograph is geotagged, you can use Operator to quickly push its’ coordinates to Google maps.


This works for any of the millions of geotagged pictures on Flickr.


Operator requires information on the Web to be encoded using microformats, and since this method for semantically encoding information is relatively new, not all sites are using microformats yet. However, Operator works great with any blog that uses rel-tag, and the sites Yahoo! Local, Flickr, and, all of which contain millions of pieces of information expressed using microformats. As more sites begin to semantically encode data with microformats, Operator will automatically work with them as well.

If you are not familiar with microformats, Alex Faaborg has been posting about microformats throughout the week. These posts serve as a good introduction:

Operator isn’t the first microformat detection extension for Firefox, previously microformat detection in Firefox was possible with the Tails Export extension by Robert de Bruin. Operator builds on Tails Export by having a user interface that is based around actions the user can take, instead of data types. Operator also includes support for the microformats geo and rel-tag, and is compatible with Firefox 2.

After using Operator for awhile, you will find yourself quickly transferring structured data to your favorite applications without typing a single letter, you will be hoping around the Web without navigating on hyperlinks, and you will be remixing services in ways that are really useful.

The combination of microformated content on the Web and the Operator extension for Firefox results in a kind of data cross pollination that we think is very exciting.

Operator as Tool for Adding Microformated Content to Your Web Site

[Update: Additional technical information about Operator can be found on Michael Kaply’s blog]

In addition to demonstrating why microformats are important to end users, Operator can also be used as a tool for testing microformated content you have added to your Web site. Operator’s creator Michael Kaply explains:

In creating Operator my goals were to create something that was useful to microformat developers as well as users looking to explore microformats. As such, the Operator Toolbar can be displayed in two modes: Microformats mode and Actions mode.

In Microformats mode, each button on the toolbar represents a microformat. When you select an individual entry from the submenu on the button all the handlers available for that microformat are displayed. You can also change the options so that the default handler for that microformat is invoked when an individual entry is selected, as opposed to displaying all the handlers. In addition, you can choose to use a more descriptive name (for instance Contact(s) instead of hCard).


I have added some other useful features for developers. When you hold down the Shift key and select an entry in a microformats submenu, it displays the internal representation of the selected microformat item. When you hold down the Ctrl key and select an entry in a microformats submenu, it displays the source of the selected microformat item. Also, if debug mode is turned on in options, when an invalid microformat is detected, the menu text is changed to “Invalid – select for more details.” If you select the menu item, it will give you a message indicating what we believe is incorrect about the entry.

The Operator extension is also very extensible, allowing for not only the creation of additional microformats, but also the addition of handlers to existing microformats. There are sample files provided in the directory where the extension is installed for both of these cases. To use the new microformat or handler, place it in a directory called “microformats” in your profile directory.

I know I will get a few questions about some things, so I thought I’d handle them here as well.

Q: Why didn’t you use the XSLT transforms from Brian Suda to export to iCal and vCard?

A: Brian has done some great work, and I did take a look at those in the beginning but decided against them mainly because I needed more flexibility in my code to access the individual items in the microformats. Because of this, I parse the microformats myself and store the data in Javascript. Also, I wanted all the code in the extension to be original. I realize my export is not anywhere near as complete as Brian’s – that’s being worked on.

Q: Aren’t the Tails and Tails Export extensions good enough? Why do we need more extensions in the microformat space?

A: The Tails and Tails Export extensions are great and they provided my first glimpse at using microformats in the browser. I quickly discovered though that the interfaces they provided (sidebar and status bar) were not what I was looking for and it was not easy to add custom handlers and microformats. My goal with this new work was to make it easy to tailor the microformat concept for the end user as well as provide more options for developers working on microformats.

Get Operator

You can download Operator at


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49 responses

  1. Pingback from Microformats, HTML 5, OpenID and Semantic HTML : 20 GOTO 10 on :

    […] It’s my understanding that microformats will be native in Firefox 3, however you can start to explore microformats now using Firefox plugins, specifically Tails and Operator. […]

  2. Pingback from YashLabs » Blog Archive » Enhance your Calendar scheduling with Microformats. on :

    […] You can read more about Operator on Michael’s blog and on the Mozilla blog. […]

  3. Pingback from Microformats in practice · on :

    […] Anyhow, for more info read the release post on the Mozilla Dev Blog, Introducing Operator. […]

  4. Pingback from links for 2007-01-02 « nonimage on :

    […] Mozilla Labs Blog » Blog Archive » Introducing Operator microformtas plugin for firefox (tags: microformats plugin extension firefox browser) […]

  5. Pingback from Next Generation Internet » Microformats Tutorials on :

    […] Vill lyfta fram denna online presenetation specifikt, där man verkligen ser hur man använder Microformats i praktiken. I presentation används Firefox tillägget Operator, som jag skrivit om tidigare här. […]

  6. Pingback from Julian On Software » What are Microformats? Microformats for busy people on :

    […] Operator is a plugin that allows you to view a selection of microformats using Firefox 2 right now. I’ve been using it for about a month now and it’s not much more than a curiosity, however fascinating to see where this is going. […]

  7. Pingback from Rob Sayre’s Mozilla Blog » Blog Archive » Get the Code into a Repository on :

    […] Operator was introduced as a Mozilla Labs project two months ago. […]

  8. Pingback from Julian On Software » What are Microformats? Microformats for busy people on :

    […] Lots of names: Yahoo, ZDNet, stacks of others… Firefox 3 will support microformats built in. The Microformats site has more info on this — (I saw a link earlier but darned if I can’t find it again!). Operator is a plugin that allows you to view a selection of microformats using Firefox 2 right now. I’ve been using it for about a month now and it’s not much more than a curiosity, however fascinating to see where this is going. […]

  9. Pingback from FF Extension - Operator at CunningWeb on :

    […] Operator 소개 바로가기 […]

  10. Pingback from mutednoise » Operator: MicroFormats on Firefox on :

    […] Until now there’s been a lot of theoretical talk on their usefulness but not much progress on their use. Finally, a new FireFox plugin, Operator, changes this. From the Mozilla blog: Here are some examples of things you can do with this release of Operator, and with the Web as it exists today. […]

  11. Pingback from » Blog Archive » links for 2007-01-22 on :

    […] Mozilla Labs Blog: Introducing Operator Firefoxtillägg för att hantera mikroformat. (tags: mozilla firefox operator mikroformat) […]

  12. Pingback from thedeplorableword » Archive » links for 2007-01-21 on :

    […] Introducing Operator very cool Firefox Microformat extension, but can’t we just get this in the browser already? (tags: microformats firefox web browser standards) […]

  13. Pingback from Next Generation Internet » Blog Archive » Microformats Toolbar för Firefox on :

    […] Denna toolbar för Firefox hjälper dig att identifiera och använda de Microformats som finns på olika sajter. T.ex om en sajt publicerar olika event (och har anv Microformats) så kan du med hjälp av denna toolbar lägga till eventet i kalendern. Alternativt om ett företag publicerar kontaktuppgifter (och har anv Microformats) till nyckelpersoner, så kan man enkelt med denna toolbar lägga till dem i din egen adressbok. […]

  14. Pingback from Crónicas Ociosas » Microformatos on :

    […] Por cierto, me topé con un par de extensiones para Firefox que detectan la inclusión de microformatos en páginas web, y que permiten extraer información de ellas hacia otras aplicaciones. La primera extensión se llama Tails, y pone un iconito en la parte inferior derecha del browser, desde el cual podemos ver cuando la página contiene microcontenido, por llamarle de alguna forma. La segunda es Operator, que agrega una barra en la parte de arriba del browser, y con la cual podemos exportar microcontenido a otros sitios, como nuestro calendario en google, a google maps (en el caso de direcciones o coordenadas), contactos, o ver los resultados de los tags marcados en la página en diferentes servicios, como Flickr, Del.ici.ous y Technorati. […]

  15. Pingback from ~n0mer » MicroFormats on :

    […] Третья версия Firefox’a (выйдет во второй половине этого года) будет поддерживать микроформаты “из коробки”, но потестировать такую возможность можно уже сейчас с помощью плагина ‘Operator’, написанного Michael Kaply (IBM). […]

  16. Pingback from First Page Direct Blog » Blog Archive » Microformats the glue for web two on :

    […] Well maybe, just maybe Microformats will be the glue that joins the stuff we rave about with the ‘general public’. However on their own they will just add to the general confusion. Thankfully the Operator toolbar extension (which seems likely to be included standard with Firefox 3) could just be the killer app. […]

  17. Pingback from Fedafi RSS Marketing Blog » Publisher Network Update - Microformats on :

    […] Yesterday we finished testing our implementation of Microformats for the publisher network. This means hcard and tag will be available for all feeds added. More information on Microformats can be found here and if you want to see how you can actually use them check out the new Firefox plugin – Operator. […]

  18. Pingback from Mike’s Musings » Blog Archive » Adding handlers to Operator on :

    […] Over at you’ll see the announcement of a microformats extension I created called Operator. I figured the release of this extension was a good reason for me to start blogging again, since people have questions and comments about the extension. So that’s what I’ll be doing here. […]

  19. Pingback from Microformats e Firefox 3 » Revolução Etc - Web Standards em uma casca de noz! on :

    […] Instalei aqui no meu Firefox uma extension / add-on chamada Operator desenvolvido por Michael Kaply da IBM através do Mozilla Lab e segundo palavras dele mesmo a extension “demonstra a utilidade da informação semântica na web, em um cenário real”. Trata-se do melhor parser de microformats implementado em um browser até agora e que provavelmente algo muito semelhante estará nativo no Firefox 3 segundo Alex Faarborg, designer de experiência do usuário do Firefox 3. […]

  20. Pingback from Le Blogueur » Briques sémantiques et micro-formats par l’exemple on :

    […] Operator est un autre plug-in pour Firefox, qui montre par l’exemple la puissance des microformats, comme l’explique très bien cette note pédagogique des Mozilla labs. Avec Operator, vous pouvez d’un clic transférer un numéro de téléphone trouvé sur l’annuaire local de Yahoo dans votre carnet d’adresse par exemple. Ou envoyer un événement récupéré depuis le site à votre agenda. Bien sûr, pour fonctionner Operator a besoin que l’information publiée sur les sites soit encodée en utilisant les microformats. […]

  21. Pingback from » Blog Archive » Firefox 3 trabajará con microformatos de forma nativa on :

    […] Microformats – Part 3: Introducing Operator Este artículo lo dedica a hablar sobre la extensión Operator (de la que hablé hace unos días) […]

  22. Pingback from Microformats in Firefox 3 at on :

    […] Update: Here’s a cool aplication of microformats – Operator – an extension for Firefox that automatically detects microformat data and purposes the user the best way to use the information. Technorati Tags: Microformats, Firefox, Operator […]

  23. Pingback from Man with no blog » Blog Archive » Microformats goes up a notch on :

    […] Mozilla labs in mid Dec 2006 released the next step of solid integration of a microformats detection tool into a browser platform with the release of the Firefox extension Operator. […]

  24. WulfTheSaxon wrote on :

    Great extension, however I’m forced to uninstall it, as I just don’t have the screen space for an extra toolbar. If you add a button for toggling the toolbar or that activates a drop-down menu, I’ll be sure to reinstall it.

  25. Pingback from » Blog Archive » Operator: extensión para detectar microformatos en Firefox 2 on :

    […] Otra extensión relacionada con los microformatos. Operator detecta el contenido microformateado (hCard, hCalendar, geo, hReview y rel-tag) y te permite exportar dicho contenido a aplicaciones webs e incluso de escritorio. […]

  26. Pingback from Dirty Carl » Blog Archive » Mozilla launches Operator microformats parser on :

    […] Original post by cashbagg […]

  27. Pingback from Scott Banwart’s Blog » Blog Archive » links for 2006-12-22 on :

    […] Mozilla Labs Blog » Blog Archive » Introducing Operator (tags: microformats firefox extensions) […]

  28. Pingback from Mozilla Labs Blog » Blog Archive » Introducing Operator : Popular Bookmarks : eConsultant on :

    […] Mozilla Labs Blog » Blog Archive » Introducing Operator Posted in bookmarks | Trackback | […]

  29. Pingback from Operator: A Firefox Plugin Bringing Functionality to Microformats » Let me put it this way… on :

    […] As previously mentioned I would do a review of the brand new Firefox plugin “Operator” by Michael Kaply. Instead, I felt this article at the Mozilla Labs Blog did a better job than I ever could at describing the functionality of Operator. There are a few highlights I would still like to cover though. First there are two modes to the plugin: Actions and Microformats. The former is where you get the real functionality out of the plugin; You can export contacts to your defualt email application (Outlook,, etc.), add events to your Google Calendar, find a location on Google Maps, and look up tags at flickr,, technorati, and The latter shows you the microformat type being used on the page and can be used for writing/debuging your own microformats. Anyways, check out the plugin and read the article to discover the potential that microformats have. […]

  30. Pingback from carpeaqua » Blog Archive » Mozilla Labs Blog > Introducing Operator on :

    […] Mozilla Labs Blog > Introducing Operator:Today Mozilla Labs is releasing Operator, a microformat detection extension developed by Michael Kaply at IBM. Operator demonstrates the usefulness of semantic information on the Web, in real world scenarios. […]

  31. Pingback from carpeaqua » Blog Archive » Mozilla Labs Blog » Blog Archive » Introducing Operator on :

    […] Mozilla Labs Blog » Blog Archive » Introducing Operator […]

  32. Pingback from Alex Faaborg - » Meeting with Tantek Çelik on :

    […] Demo of Operator […]

  33. Pingback from It’s All Happening · links for 2006-12-20 on :

    […] Mozilla Labs Blog » Blog Archive » Introducing Operator Today Mozilla Labs is releasing Operator, a microformat detection extension developed by Michael Kaply at IBM. Operator demonstrates the usefulness of semantic information on the Web, in real world scenarios. (tags: firefox internet plugins web microformats mozilla) […]

  34. Pingback from Introducing Operator on The uber geeks on :

    […] A new extension for Firefox, Operator. Check it out. Oh. They are useful. […]

  35. Pingback from Microformats in the Wild - on :

    […] Mozilla Labs launched a pretty neat extension called Operator which reads a sites Microformats, such as hCalendar and adds menus to use that data in other sites and local applications. […]

  36. Pingback from Celso Martinho » Blog Archive » Microformats and Firefox on :

    […] Microformats have been around for a while and increasingly receiving positive feedback and adoption. They’re known as “simple conventions for embedding semantic markup for a specific problem domain” but if I’d choose one word to define it, it would be simplicity. Today I found a post mentioning a two Firefox extensions (Operator and Tail) and one Greasemonkey script. If you’re microformats I urge you to try these. […]

  37. Pingback from Mozilla Operator Extension for Microformats at freshlabs journal on :

    […] Mozilla just released Operator, a very promising microformat detection extension that demonstrates the usefulness of semantic information on the Web, in real world scenarios. In creating Operator […] goals were to create something that was useful to microformat developers as well as users looking to explore microformats. As such, the Operator Toolbar can be displayed in two modes: Microformats mode and Actions mode. […]

  38. Pingback from microformats | weblog | This Fortnight in Microformats on :

    […] Alex Faaborg of Mozilla Labs has announced availability of ‘Operator’, a Firefox extension written by Michael Kaply at IBM (download from Firefox Add‑ons). Operator detects hCard, hCalendar, geo, hReview and rel-tag and allows you to combine those microformats with desktop applications and web services such as Google Maps and Yahoo! Calendar. Alex has also written some accompanying introductions to microformats and collected comments in […]

  39. Pingback from » Operator: o futuro da Web project.47 - Portfolio e blog sobre Web Standards » Blog Archive on :

    […] Preocupando-se com essa nova realidade, a Mozilla desenvolveu uma extensão para Firefox 2, chamada Operator, que tem como intuito aproveitar as possibilidades que os microformatos nos dão. Não é a primeira extensão do tipo, mas representa um grande avanço e incentivo aos desenvolvedores para que, cada vez em maior número, adotem esta metodologia. […]

  40. Adam Michela wrote on :

    Sick. This goes a long way towards being able to explain the benefits of microformats to the masses. Nice work!

  41. Michael Kaply wrote on :

    Operator is a microformat architecture for Firefox – the toolbar is just the first UI metaphor..

    We’d like to try to get a dialog going as to what some other metaphors might be.

    Please check out my blog about Operator at:

    where I’ll be discussing the details of Operator.

  42. Pingback from Effair | Billet | Operator on :

    […] Mozilla Labs lance aujourd’hui Operator, une extension pour le logiciel Mozilla Firefox qui a pour but de détecter les microformats présents dans les pages web. […]

  43. Danno wrote on :

    This needs to be made smaller. Occupying an entire toolbar for the purpose of contextual action is ridiculous. How about a button that can be added to the top row of your toolbar icons and becomes highlighted when there is some microformat data to be parsed? (The Tails icon is pretty good, but it’s so far out of the way being at the bottom right that it’s almost unnoticeable)

  44. Pingback from Hollidazed » Blog Archive » Firefox extensions for Christmas on :

    […] I spotted the second extension yesterday on and I think it might be the Microformats extension I’ve been waiting for. Previously I’ve been using the Tails extension but this new extension called Operator is a Microformat detection extension that offers a more user friendly interface for discovering and exporting Microformats. […]

  45. Pingback from wizardishungry/blog » Interesting Developments with Microformats from Mozilla and Microsoft on :

    […] I picked up on this over at Microformatique, Mozilla Labs have released a Firefox extension called Operator with wide support for common Microformats and integration with the regular Web 2.0 pantheon of Flickr,, etc. […]

  46. Pingback from Smooth Operator at microformatique - a blog about microformats and “data at the edges” on :

    […] I’ve seen the future of web browsing, and it is Operator. Well at least when it comes to microformatted and (potentially other kinds of) structured and meta data. I think it is really exciting. […]

  47. John Breslin wrote on :

    Sounds cool, must give it a go. See also Uldis Bojars’ Semantic Radar plugin for Firefox.

  48. Pingback from LouderVoice Blog » Firefox Operator Add-On for Microformats on :

    […] A lovely new extension/addon for Firefox called Operator has just been announced over at Mozilla Labs. Its basic functionality is similar to Tails and Tails Export in that it detects microformats on web pages and allows you to do “stuff” with them but it looks like the author, Michael Kaply at IBM, has big plans for Operator and felt that he could not achieve that with the existing tools. […]

  49. Andy Mabbett wrote on :

    A link to seems in order.