HTML5: Up and Running

Title: HTML5: Up and Running
Author: Mark Pilgrim
Year: 2010
For: Experienced HTML users who are interested in modernizing their markup with new HTML5 features.

Brief, informative, and entertaining, HTML5: Up and Running is a great resource outlining the new and upcoming additions to HTML. While it may seem dated now (especially when discussing browser compatibilities or technologies that seemed like the next big thing but never really took off), it provides a fun background on web standards, witty commentary on the ongoing browser wars, and plenty of explanation and examples of new web APIs.

The book is also released in the Creative Commons under the title Dive Into HTML5 (downloadable from any number of sites) which has the added benefits of links to additional resources, examples of new features built into the text, color reference images, beautiful illustrations, and even an additional chapter (on the History API). I read the first half online and the second half in print.

The Content

The book breaks apart each new element of HTML5 explaining the purpose of the new feature, how to detect if the feature is supported in the client’s browser, and giving several examples of how to use each element. The online version has a plethora of links to additional resources, but I personally found them distracting as it seemed every other word shot me off down another rabbit hole. In that regards I would recommend reading through the printed book on the first pass for the sake of focusing on the material.

The book begins with a quick background on how web standards come to be, why standards aren’t always supported, and a whole section on testing for API availability. Pilgrim talks about the history of HTML5 and why XML and XHTML didn’t kill HTML. In my opinion, these sections and his strongly opinionated, sardonic asides alone make this book a worthy read.

However this book does come across as dated. It was written while the browser were still trying to adapt the new standards and discusses technologies that hadn’t even been released (and some that would eventually just be abandoned all together).

The Style

The book is laid out feature-by-feature and often feels like it was written more as of reference than as book to be read straight through (it’s often repetitious and refers back to previous chapters regularly). Each chapter begins with an excited explanation of the feature followed by a lament on the lack of support (often by IE) followed by an explanation on how to hack around the lack of support.

The physical book reads like most O’Reilly books (albeit a little more funny) but Dive Into HTML5 offers more of an immersive read. Embedded are real examples of things like canvas, links to examples the reader can follow along with, and the semi-annoying links to (sometimes pointless) external resources that I mentioned.

Summary

While most tech books try to be the alpha-and-omega of their given subject, this book takes a very focused look at the new HTML5 features. This is refreshing as someone who already knows HTML, but means that it shouldn’t be someone’s first resource on markup languages. Also it does seem dated, so it probably shouldn’t be someone’s last resource on HTML5 as browsers have changed since 2010. Regardless it’s a book that could be read in a weekend that will get you excited about updating some sites and give you some fuel for your burning hatred of Internet Explorer.

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