XFN is a technical term that is an acronym that stands for “XHTML Friends Network.” This is primarily used by websites that want to create a series of referral links between other websites in order to boost SEO ratings.
In a nutshell, XFN is a simple way to represent human relationships using hyperlinks. In other words, it allows you to indicate the nature of the relationship between you and the people who are linked to from your site. This is done by adding specific attributes to the links in your HTML.
How To Use XFN
XFN links must follow a certain format, to wit:
(a href=”https://www.photomatt.net/””” rel=”friend”)Photo Matt(/a) using the “<” and “>” signs respectively instead of open and closed parenthesis.
Bloggers primarily use XFN in order to demonstrate that they are friends or colleagues with the people who own or operate other blogs. The rel=”friend” tag inside the link is the attribute that demonstrates this friend relationship. You can also further classify the kind of friendship you have with the other website by modifying the attribute (for example: rel=”friend I met at a WordCamp”, but just a simple “friend” is the most common usage of XFN.
In this example, the rel=”friend” part is the XFN value. It indicates that the person you’re linking to is a friend. There are many other XFN values you can use as well though, such as acquaintance, colleague, co-worker, family or spouse to name a few.
Purpose Of XFN
The purpose of XFN is to enrich the data on the web with information about human relationships. By marking up your links with XFN values, you’re providing extra context about the nature of those links and the people behind them. This information can be used by software tools to create a more personalized and social experience for web users.
For example, a tool might analyze the XFN data on a person’s blog to generate a visual representation of their social network. Showing who their friends, family and colleagues are and how they are inter-connected.
Search engines and other specialized services will parse these XFN links to understand and display the relationship you have with the owners or operators of these external sites.
XFN is what’s known as semantic content because it adds more meaning to the information available on your website and your relationship with other people’s sites.
For a web developer, it’s not essential or even particularly common to use XFN. It’s not as widely used as some other technologies. It is an interesting tool though, that can add an extra (if often unnecessary) layer of info to your web pages. I think Ii can be a useful thing to know, particularly if you have an interest in social networking or semantic web technologies.
In many cases, developers might opt for more modern and widely adopted technologies to achieve similar results, like using structured data (Schema.org), Open Graph protocol, or other social APIs.
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