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Introducing HTML5 for Building Online Games

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There are many notable additions to HTML5, such as native drawing support and audiovisual elements. In this chapter, James Williams discusses the features added by HTML5 and the associated JavaScript APIs.
This chapter is from the book

HTML5 is a draft specification for the next major iteration of HTML. It represents a break from its predecessors, HTML4 and XHTML. Some elements have been removed and it is no longer based on SGML, an older standard for document markup. HTML5 also has more allowances for incorrect syntax than were present in HTML4. It has rules for parsing to allow different browsers to display the same incorrectly formatted document in the same fashion. There are many notable additions to HTML, such as native drawing support and audiovisual elements. In this chapter, we discuss the features added by HTML5 and the associated JavaScript APIs.

Beyond Basic HTML

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), invented by Tim Berners-Lee, has come a long way since its inception in 1990. Figure 1-1 shows an abbreviated timeline of HTML from the HTML5Rocks slides (http://slides.html5rocks.com/#slide3).

Figure 1-1

Figure 1-1 HTML timeline

Although all the advancements were critical in pushing standards forward, of particular interest to our pursuits is the introduction of JavaScript in 1996 and AJAX in 2005. Those additions transformed the Web from a medium that presented static unidirectional data, like a newspaper or book, to a bidirectional medium allowing communication in both directions.


JavaScript (née LiveScript and formally known as ECMAScript) started as a scripting language for the browser from Netscape Communications. It is a loosely typed scripting language that is prototype-based and can be object-oriented or functional. Despite the name, JavaScript is most similar to the C programming language, although it does inherit some aspects from Java.

The language was renamed JavaScript as part of a marketing agreement between Sun Microsystems (now Oracle Corporation) and Netscape to promote the scripting language alongside Sun's Java applet technology. It become widely used for scripting client-side web pages, and Microsoft released a compatible version named JScript, with some additions and changes, because Sun held the trademark on the name "JavaScript."


AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) started a new wave of interest in JavaScript programming. Once regarded as a toy for amateurs and script kiddies, AJAX helped developers solve more complex problems.

At the epicenter of AJAX is the XMLHttpRequest object invented by Microsoft in the late 1990s. XMLHttpRequest allows a website to connect to a remote server and receive structured data. As opposed to creating a set of static pages, a developer was empowered to create highly dynamic applications. Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook are examples of these types of applications.

We are currently in the midst of another JavaScript renaissance, as the major browser makers have been using the speed of their JavaScript engines as a benchmark for comparison. JavaScript as a primary programming language has found its way into server-side web components, such as Node.js, and mobile application frameworks, such as WebOS and PhoneGap.

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