Schema For User Actions Now Available announced a new form of Schema they have introduced with support from Google, Microsoft Bing, Yahoo and Yandex named Actions.

Schema Actions are a way to communicate via markup on your web page the actions they enable and how these actions can be invoked. Technically, describes it as:

An action performed by a direct agent and indirect participants upon a direct object. Optionally happens at a location with the help of an inanimate instrument. The execution of the action may produce a result. Specific action sub-type documentation specifies the exact expectation of each argument/role.

It seems like you can communicate the start and end time of an action, the desired outcome, result, location, and instrument used for the action. If I had to guess, it can be used to communicate the time it takes someone to do something, like cook a meal, write a book, and what the action and result of the action should be.

How Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex may use this is unclear. I’ve asked both Microsoft and Google for a comment but I have yet to hear back.

I can see the rich snippets showing more data around specific websites with this markup, so before someone clicks on a result, they know the time it takes on average to go through the process.

For example, the time it takes to complete an online form or exam may be displayed in the search results, with the result displayed as well.

Here is the part of the vocabulary of this new Schema named Action:

  • actionStatus: Indicates the current disposition of the Action.
  • agent: The direct performer or driver of the action (animate or inanimate). e.g. *John* wrote a book.
  • endTime: When the Action was performed: end time. This is for actions that span a period of time. e.g. John wrote a book from January to *December*.
  • instrument: The object that helped the agent perform the action. e.g. John wrote a book with *a pen*.
  • location: The location of the event, organization or action.
  • object: The object upon the action is carried out, whose state is kept intact or changed. Also known as the semantic roles patient, affected or undergoer (which change their state) or theme (which doesn’t). e.g. John read *a book*.
  • participant: Other co-agents that participated in the action indirectly. e.g. John wrote a book with *Steve*.
  • result: The result produced in the action. e.g. John wrote *a book*.
  • startTime: When the Action was performed: start time. This is for actions that span a period of time. e.g. John wrote a book from *January* to December.
  • target: Indicates a target EntryPoint for an Action.

Postscript: A Google spokesperson would not add any additional details outside of the original blog post.

A Bing spokesperson however gave us answers to all our questions:

(Q) Can you explain this a bit better in terms of use cases?

(A) The Action vocabulary is intended to be used primarily for describing actions that have taken place in the past [past actions] or could take place in the future [potential actions]. Let’s assume Barry shared an MSN article on Facebook yesterday. This is an example of a past action. Facebook might use to describe the action by indicating that Jason is the subject (agent) of the action, the action verb is sharing, and the object of the action is an MSN article. Now let’s say MSN wanted to expose the ability for applications to programmatically share an article on their website. This would be an example of a potential action. MSN might use to describe the potential action by indicating the action verb is ‘sharing’ and that you can perform this action by calling a specific URL.

(Q) How may Bing use this in the search results and is it being used now?

(A) Bing currently uses a draft version of the Actions vocabulary to power the recently released App Linking service. You can learn more about that via the Bing Dev Center and associated MSDN documentation. In addition to App Linking, there are a number of ways in which we might use the vocabulary to power new experiences in Bing and other Microsoft products. Unfortunately there are no definitive plans we can share at this time.

Note that Bing uses other vocabularies to power its rich web result captions as well. More information on that product is available in the Bing Webmaster Tools.

(Q) What are the goals here for webmasters?

(A) The primary goal of has always been to provide webmasters with a common vocabulary for use in describing their data. The new Actions vocabulary, especially the terms associated with potential actions, extends this goal to include describing services as well. By providing these descriptions, search engines like Bing and other applications that consume them can leverage the associated information to expose the data and services in a relevant and useful way.