HTML5 is the new catchall term for “the Web.” Like Ajax and Web 2.0 before, the term can cause confusion when used in different contexts. HTML5 is technically the fifth revision of the HTML markup language, but you will find the term being used to describe an umbrella of next-generation web technology specifications that include CSS3, SVG, and JavaScript APIs.

In order to understand HTML5 in this context, first it is important to understand that HTML5 is not one technology that is applied or added to a web application. There are more than 30 specifications within the HTML5 umbrella, and each is at a different stage of maturity. Furthermore, each specification is also at a different state of adoption and, potentially, implementation, by the major browser manufacturers.

Depending on an application’s business requirements, the app’s developer will pick and choose the HTML5 features to take advantage of. It is entirely possible that only a handful of the available specifications will be used for the final implementation of a modern web application.

Critics often proclaim it is necessary to wait until HTML5 is 100% supported before you use it in your application. This is simply not true. Many specifications have already reached maturity and are fully implemented by modern browsers. Other specifications are at an early stage of development, or are poorly supported by some of the major browser manufacturers. It’s important to know which specification type you are using. Research is helpful, but the only true way to tell is to thoroughly test your apps in all browsers.

For the specifications that are newer or that aren’t as strongly supported, some clever developers have produced free and open source code that can be utilized to shim, or polyfill, support in older browsers. As defined by Remy Sharp, “A polyfill, or polyfiller, is a piece of code (or plug-in) that provides the technology that you, the developer, expect the browser to provide natively. Flattening the API landscape, if you will.” In our opinion, the best polyfill is one that lets you write your code just as you would if the feature were natively supported, and that does the work in the background when necessary, being transparent to both the user and the developer. In most circumstances, each HTML5 specification has a polyfill, or multiple competing polyfills, and is ready to be used today. You will find references to some of the Web’s most effective polyfills within this book.

Why HTML5?

A beginning developer might ask, “Why should I care about HTML5?” Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to this question. Even the most advanced web developers will answer this question differently depending on the features they are most familiar with.

But overall, there are some common trends that span the feature set and on which most developers would agree. Before HTML5, the Web was not considered to be a rival to native desktop and mobile applications. Nearly since its inception, the Web has been considered to be an easily deployable, cross-platform solution. However, it has been hampered due to its lack of highly important business requirements: namely, performance, security, and graphics. The theory has been that if the modern web browser could mature as an application platform, developers would be able to stop creating platform-specific native applications.

The Ajax revolution took the web application world in the right direction by providing asynchronous, background updates to the server via the XMLHttpRequest object, JSON transfer format, and an explosion of JavaScript libraries that stretched the boundaries of application development in the browser, many of which continue to make up the basis for polyfill support. However, HTML5 is about the modern browser providing the necessary support to enable sophisticated application development natively. In order to accomplish this, features such as the ability to maintain browser history and bookmarking during asynchronous interactions, cross-domain communication, local storage, offline support, rich graphics, and even new protocols to improve the speed and efficiency of the connectivity layer still needed to be created and improved.

HTML5 Implementations

As an eager developer ready to move forward with implementing some of the new features available in this text, it will be important to understand that many of the HTML5 specifications are in experimental stages of development. One major challenge in writing a book about evolving specifications is keeping the information fresh and up to date.

The following topics are important considerations when learning experimental web browser specifications.

Browser-specific prefixes

In order for browser makers to be able to implement experimental features (usually implementing specifications before they were completed), browser makers “prefix” that feature with a shorthand that limits its use to each particular browser. A great example of this is the implementation of requestAnimationFrame, which is a JavaScript method in the page that aids in animation within the browser. Each browser originally implemented this feature with browser prefixes as follows:

  • requestAnimationFrame

  • webkitRequestAnimationFrame

  • mozRequestAnimationFrame

  • oRequestAnimationFrame

  • msRequestAnimationFrame

Browser prefixes are most common in CSS. We urge you to read the introduction to Chapter 2 to get a full explanation of how browser prefixes are implemented in CSS.

Validation with HTML5 Conformance Checker

An HTML validator is a piece of software that parses your web pages against a set of web standards as defined by a particular Document Type Definition (DTD). If you are unfamiliar with a DTD, think of it as metadata that precedes your HTML markup in order to instruct the browser as to what “flavor” of HTML you will be using.

The HTML validator returns a list of errors found, according to the chosen standard. For our purposes, we will assume that we are using the HTML5 Document Type Definition.

The HTML5 Document Type Definition is more lenient than the most recent XHMTL definition, and the output of the W3C’s new validator reflects this difference. After all, a validator should not throw exceptions for stylistic issues. It should be focused on validating your HTML markup against a specification.

HTML5 Lint

This means that developers should also be ready to use a lint tool in order to expose stylistic issues within their code. Some of the more common issues to check for are consistent indentation, lowercase tags, and omission of closing tags.

At the time of this writing, we recommend the HTML5 Lint tool.

References for HTML5 implementation statuses and feature support

We will continue to provide updates as often as possible to the examples provided within this text on our blog.

There are also many great resources around the web to reference HTML5 implementation statuses and feature support of specific browsers.

For all modern browsers:

For Chrome:

For Internet Explorer:

For Mozilla Firefox:

For Apple Safari:

Why HTML5 Hacks?

The term hacker carries a negative connotation within the media, but the term has evolved to describe a number of different technical people. Wikipedia provides three very different definitions for the term hacker:[1]

  1. Hacker (computer security), someone who accesses a computer system by circumventing its security system

  2. Hacker (hobbyist), who makes innovative customizations or combinations of retail electronic and computer equipment

  3. Hacker (programmer subculture), who shares an anti-authoritarian approach to software development now associated with the free software movement

It is in the context of definition 2 that we are using the term hack. Among these types of hacks, the term refers to a self-contained proof of concept, similar to agile spikes, or recipes. These quick solutions exercise or validate an API, feature, or technology, and can also serve a very important role, not only in educating the software team, but also in driving the direction of development within a project’s life cycle.

Who This Book Is For

HTML5 Hacks introduces readers to the umbrella of HTML5 specifications through 90 hacks. For beginners it can serve as a starting point for building browser-based applications. For intermediate to advanced developers it can serve to quickly fill in the gaps for specifications they have yet to be exposed to.

Nevertheless, this book will be what you make of it.

Contents of This Book

This book consists of 10 chapters, organized as follows:

Chapter 1, Hacking the Semantic Way

Introduces new key HTML5 markup elements and attributes

Chapter 2, Hacking with Style

Covers visual expression and behaviors with CSS3

Chapter 3, Multimedia Hacking

Discusses HTML5 audio and video tags

Chapter 4, Hacking Your Graphics with Canvas and SVG

Covers working with Canvas and SVG

Chapter 5, User Interactions

Introduces HTML5 drag-and-drop, editing elements, and other interactions

Chapter 6, Client-Side Data Storage Hacks

Discusses storage and HTML5 application cache

Chapter 7, Geolocation Hacks

Teaches how to work with geolocations

Chapter 8, WebWorker API

Covers taking advantage of the WebWorker API

Chapter 9, Hacking HTML5 Connectivity

Discusses web sockets, cross-document messaging, server-side events, and more

Chapter 10, Pro HTML5 Application Hacks with Node.js

Teaches how to build professional HTML5 applications with Node.js

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:


Indicates new terms, URLs, email addresses, filenames, file extensions, pathnames, directories, and Unix utilities

Constant width

Indicates commands, options, switches, variables, attributes, keys, functions, types, classes, namespaces, methods, modules, properties, parameters, values, objects, events, event handlers, XML tags, HTML tags, macros, the contents of files, or the output from commands

Constant width bold

Shows commands or other text that should be typed literally by the user

Constant width italic

Shows text that should be replaced with user-supplied values

This formatting signifies a tip, suggestion, general note, warning, or caution.

Using Code Examples

This book is here to help you get your job done. In general, you may use the code in this book in your programs and documentation. You do not need to contact us for permission unless you’re reproducing a significant portion of the code. For example, writing a program that uses several chunks of code from this book does not require permission. Selling or distributing a CD-ROM of examples from O’Reilly books does require permission. Answering a question by citing this book and quoting example code does not require permission. Incorporating a significant amount of example code from this book into your product’s documentation does require permission.

We appreciate, but do not require, attribution. An attribution usually includes the title, author, publisher, and ISBN. For example: “HTML5 Hacks by Jesse Cravens and Jeff Burtoft (O’Reilly). Copyright 2013 Jesse Cravens and Jeff Burtoft, 978-1-449-33499-4.”

All of the code examples are located at

You can also keep up with the authors and any updates at

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We would like to extend a special thank you to both of our families. This book required a lot of evening and weekend hours to complete, and our wives and children are the ones who sacrificed the most.

Jeff would like to thank his wife Carla who encouraged him to step out and write a book, and for allowing their lives to be turned upside down while he worked to complete it. He would also like to thank his children, Chloe, Maddy, and Jude, for being his inspiration for creativity, and for being proud of him in everything he does. Jeff would also like to thank Jesse, his partner and coauthor, for dreaming up ideas like this book, and making them a reality.

Jesse would like to thank his wife Amy for all the support she gave him through the long and late hours he spent on this book; his children, Carter and Lindley, for trying to understand when Daddy had to work weekends and nights; his brother and sister-in-law for providing a quiet place to write and encouragement that it was worth the effort; and his parents for the continued boosts of inspiration to check another item off the bucket list. And finally, he’d like to thank Jeff for having the shared determination to coauthor this book, overcome the adversity associated with an ambitious project, and make it across the finish line.

Guest Hackers

John Dyer ( is the executive director of Communications and Educational Technology at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has been a web developer and technology writer for more than 10 years, and he loves creating tools that make complex tasks easier for other developers. He lives in the Dallas area with his two amazing kids and his lovely wife, Amber.

Alex Sirota cofounded and was the CTO and Head of Product at FoxyTunes, an Internet startup acquired by Yahoo!, where he spent more than four years building media and entertainment web products. Previously, he cofounded Elbrus Ltd., a company that provided software solutions to Philips Medical Systems, IBM, and others. Prior to Elbrus, he was the head of a computer facility in the Israel Defense Forces, and he coauthored a book (published by Wiley) on Mozilla and web technologies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Technion–Israel Institute of Technology.

Raymond Camden is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. His work focuses on web standards, mobile development, and ColdFusion. He’s a published author and presents at conferences and user groups on a variety of topics. He can be reached through his blog, via Twitter (@cfjedimaster), or via email ().

Phil Leggetter is a Real-Time Web Software and Technology Evangelist. He has been developing and using real-time web technologies for more than 10 years, and his focus is to help people use these technologies to build the next generation of interactive and engaging real-time web applications.

Alexander Schulze is the founder of the jWebSocket project, as well as an IT consultant and trainer for IT professionals. He is a speaker at various conferences and author of several articles and books.

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