TheMadScientist - 11:33 pm on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)
Personally I see the extra work on older sites argument, but... Most of the sites I work on apply a slightly different style (layout) to most of the elements you can define, so if I can style text and define what it's about all at once it doesn't seem like an all bad idea to me. To me it actually seems quite a bit simpler than having to add an extra HTML tag to do the same thing... Essentially all people have to do is change their class names if they already apply a different style to the elements involved.
Seriously, on one site I basically use Book_Description as the class for the description and Book_Left for the image, so it doesn't bother me a bit to change those to 'description' and 'photo' respectively so a search engine can interpret what each is. It's a simple site-wide find & replace. Personally, I would be much more reluctant to go back and recode sites to add an HTML tag.
IMO, all quite a few of us have to do is change the name of the style applied to elements. I can't see how that's not well thought through or an issue for most people or even the web in general. Basically all people have to do using the microformat version of the hProduct or hCard is name the class of the style they apply according to the names specified and it's done.
How does it hurt or do anything detrimental to use a specific set of class names to allow search engines to know what each element is about rather than making them up as you go? It actually seems like it would add some good (needed?) consistency for other types of things, such as screen readers...