“HTML5: Up and Running” Book Review

HTML5: Up and Running

I’ve read a decent number of articles on what will be new in HTML5. I’ve read up on the canvas element, localStorage, web workers, and a couple of the other elements one can use when creating Chrome Web Browser Extensions (for when I created my Typing Speed Monitor and Image Definitions for Dictionaries extensions).

However, I hadn’t really sat down and taken the time to thoroughly go through all the goodies that are planned for/coming with HTML5. So when my office mate showed me a huge pile of books he had just purchased, I saw the one titled HTML5: Up and Runningand got kind of curious. After flipping through it, I found out that its also available online for free under the title of Dive into HTML5, but I ended up ordering my own copy since I prefer to read the paper editions. However, a good number of resources are linked to, so a digital version of the book is somewhat advantageous.

Anyway, the book starts off with some history on how HTML developed. It goes through an old thread in a 1993 W3C mailing list archive, where participants were discussing the creation of image tag. Essentially no one could really agree on how it should be setup (Should it be img, icon or include? Should its properties be src or href?), and ultimately an author of Mosaic (an early web browser) decided to just use what he had initially proposed and shipped his browser with a working img tag. The point of the story is to show you that HTML isn’t this carefully crafted language, it’s based on discussion, but many of its features came about simply because a popular web browser decided to stand behind them.

The next chapter discusses how you as a developer can use the new HTML5 tags in your web pages today, and still have your site be backward compatible with older browsers. It uses a JavaScript technique to do this, however, there are a couple of ways to use the new tags and be backwards compatible, some of which you can read about here.

The rest of the book focuses on giving introductions to the various new features you’ll have access to in HTML5, specifically: the canvas element, the video tag, the geolocation API, the localStorage element, how to setup your site for offline storage, all the new form elements, and how microdata works. These discussions are all pretty good, though I especially liked the chapter on the video tag. I didn’t really know much about the different video formats going into the chapter, so it was nice to have a high level discussion on how videos are encoded. It was also interesting to have the author touch on the licensing issues of H.264 video. After reading about all the fees involved, especially those possibly coming after Dec. 31, 2015, it seems like it’d be a bad format to use as a standard.

Overall I liked the book and would recommend checking it out if you’re curious about using and playing around with the currently available features of HTML5.

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