1. It’s not one big thing
You may well ask: “How can I start using HTML5 if older browsers don’t support it?” But the question itself is misleading. HTML5 is not one big thing; it is a collection of individual features. So you can’t detect “HTML5 support,” because that doesn’t make any sense. But you can detect support for individual features, like canvas, video, or geolocation.
Chapter 2 and Appendix A will teach you how to properly detect support for each new HTML5 feature.
2. You don’t need to throw anything away
Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that HTML 4 is the most successful markup format ever. HTML5 builds on that success. You don’t need to throw away your existing markup. You don’t need to relearn things you already know. If your web application worked yesterday in HTML 4, it will still work today in HTML5. Period.
Now, if you want to improve your web applications, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a concrete example: HTML5 supports all the form controls from HTML 4, but it also includes new input controls. Some of these are long-overdue additions like sliders and date pickers; others are more subtle. For example, the email input type looks just like a text box, but mobile browsers will customize their onscreen keyboard to make it easier to
type email addresses. Older browsers that don’t support the email input type will treat it as a regular text field, and the form still works with no markup changes or scripting hacks. This means you can start improving your web forms today, even if some of your visitors are stuck on IE 6.
Read all the gory details about HTML5 forms in Chapter 9.
3. It’s easy to get started
“Upgrading” to HTML5 can be as simple as changing your doctype. The doctype should already be on the first line of every HTML page. Previous versions of HTML defined a lot of doctypes, and choosing the right one could be tricky. In HTML5, there is only one doctype:
Upgrading to the HTML5 doctype won’t break your existing markup, because all the tags defined in HTML 4 are still supported in HTML5. But it will allow you to use – and validate – new semantic elements like, , , and. You’ll learn all about these new elements in Chapter 3.
4. It already works
Whether you want to draw on a canvas, play video, design better forms, or build web applications that work offline, you’ll find that HTML5 is already well-supported. Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera, and mobile browsers already support canvas (Chapter 4), video (Chapter 5), geolocation (Chapter 6), local storage (Chapter 7), and more. Google already supports microdata annotations (Chapter 10). Even Microsoft – rarely known for blazing the trail of standards support – will be supporting most HTML5 features in the upcoming Internet Explorer 9.
Each chapter of this book includes the all-too-familiar browser compatibility charts.