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on 24 June 2013
Peter Gasston's book is a model of clarity with a sensible layout of the material and no-nonsense descriptions and examples. The Further Reading sections at the end of each chapter are well-focussed and particularly useful.

Chapter 2 deals with structure & semantics and provided a line of thought that I had not really clearly considered before. I'm sure it will influence design and the markup conventions to be adopted for future projects.

The real purpose in purchasing the book was to obtain an up-to-date view of device-responsive techniques and the book has served that purpose admirably.
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on 27 August 2013
Writing web technology books is hard. You're documenting a continually moving target and competing against free content readily available on the resource you're discussing. Peter Gasston is a glutton for such punishments but he's managed to produce another excellent book which is essential reading for any web developer.

The Modern Web covers a vast range of current, new and near-future HTML5-related topics. Peter recognises this is a risk and technologies will change -- hgroup was dropped and main was added to the HTML5 specification since it was published -- but the information will remain relevant for anyone creating cutting-edge web sites and applications over the next few years. It's aimed at advanced developers but, no matter what your level of expertise, you'll discover something you didn't know before.

The 250-page book starts with a discussion about the increasingly blurred distinction between desktop, tablet, mobile and other devices such as web-enabled TVs and game consoles. Developers can no longer rely on device assumptions and 'fast' is the only context which matters.

The second chapter moves into HTML structure and semantics with an overview of ARIA, RDFa, microdata, microformats and data attributes but I suspect many will jump straight to chapter three: device responsive CSS. If you read Peter's previous book, The Book of CSS3, you won't be disappointed. While other authors may describe media query syntax, Peter provides engaging content such as adaptive vs responsive, mobile first, box-sizing, the calc function, viewport-relative units and images. This is followed by CSS layout techniques including columns, flexbox and grids.

Chapter five dives into cross-browser JavaScript and, while it may only be 17 pages, it provides a good introduction to touch event handling, libraries and shims. This leads to chapter six which covers the more exciting HTML5 APIs such as geolocation, device orientation, fullscreen, vibration, battery charge detection, network bandwidth, camera and microphone integration, local storage and files.

Chapter seven is titled "Images and Graphics", but also discusses related topics such as SVG, canvas, filters and WebGL.

Chapter eight is a concise introduction to HTML5 forms, the new input types, validation, JavaScript enhancement and CSS styling. While it may be one of the more mundane topics, it's one you'll refer to the most. The excitement is ramped up again in chapter nine which covers multimedia such as video, audio, codecs, sub-titles, JavaScript APIs, Web Audio and WebRTC. Chapter ten takes us through the various technologies and techniques for creating web-based apps for mobile, desktop and TV which work online and offline.

Finally, chapter eleven discusses possible future technologies including web components, templates, decorators, scoped styles, custom elements, the shadow DOM, CSS regions and exclusions. This is followed by browser support and further reading appendices.

Peter's writing style is concise, humorous and easy to read. He's passionate about the topics without becoming geeky or resorting to indecipherable jargon. None of the examples are too in-depth or convoluted but impart enough information to get you started. There's one other benefit with No Starch Press books: pages are not glued to the spine so they open flat on your desk. If only other technical publishers had such attention to detail.

My only minor complaint is the title. I'm sure Peter and No Starch Press agonised over the name, but I'm not convinced "The Modern Web" does it justice. It's a little too vague given the number of topics -- but I struggled to think of a better three-word alternative!

Following years of web stagnation, many web developers finding it difficult to keep up with the rate of evolution. If you're overwhelmed by the volume of recent innovations, The Modern Web is a great start to your HTML5 journey.
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on 25 January 2014
For some it's shoes, others collect Zippo lighters... me, I have a weakness for web design/development books and this is right up there in my top three. Chapter 3 is worth the purchase price on its own but do start at the beginning - it's not the usual *yawn* potted history of the internet and its browsers, it's a valuable overview of the state of technology in 2013.

Bonus: each chapter has a list of suggestions further reading, also highly valuable.

I have to agree with Craig Buckler in his excellent review above that the first part of the title does the book a disservice but hopefully as more people read the book and leave swooning reviews such as this one, the title will matter less and it'll be known as "the book you MUST buy".

Very rarely do I say I would fork out for the second edition of a book but if one were to appear in 2015, 2016 I'd be queuing at midnight like a Harry Potter fan* to buy it :-)

* Disclaimer: I haven't yet actually read any HP but apparently they're quite popular...
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on 17 February 2014
An excellent compilation for experienced web developers stay update about the latest news on HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. It is like reading a code magazine with direct and interesting articles, where each concept is exposed with just the enough text to understand it, tutorial like code examples and a list of external resources to study more if you want to.
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on 14 February 2014
The web has become a rather fragmented beast these past twenty some odd years. Once upon a time, it was simple. Well. relatively simple. Three-tiered architecture was the norm, HTML was blocking, some frames could make for structure, and a handful of CGI scripts would give you some interactivity. Add a little JavaScript for eye candy and you were good.

Now? there’s a different flavor of web framework for any given day of the week, and then some. JavaScript has grown to the point where we don’t even really talk about it, unless it’s to refer to the particular library we are using (jQuery? Backbone? Ember? Angular? All of the above?). CSS and HTML have blended, and the simple structure of old has given way to a myriad of tagging, style references, script references, and other techniques to manage the miss-mash of parts that make up what you see on your screen. Oh yeah, lest we forget “what you see on your screen” has also taken on a whole new meaning. It used to mean computer screen. Now it’s computer, tablet, embedded screen, mobile phone, and a variety of other devices with sizes and shapes we were only dreaming about two decades ago.

Imagine yourself a person wanting to create a site today. I don’t mean going to one of those all-in-one site hosting shops and turning the crank on their template library (though there’s nothing wrong with that), I mean “start from bare teal, roll your own, make a site from scratch” kind of things. With the dizzying array of options out there, what’s an aspiring web developer to do?

Peter Gasston (author of "The Book of CSS3”) has effectively asked the same questions, and his answer is “The Modern Web”. Peter starts with the premise that the days of making a site for just the desktop are long gone. Any site that doesn’t consider mobile as an alternate platform (and truth be told, for many people, their only platform) they’re going to miss out on a lot of people. therefore, the multi platform ideal (device agnostic) is set up front and explanations of options available take that mobile-inclusive model into account. Each chapter looks at a broad array of possible options and available tools, and provides a survey of what they can do. Each chapter ends with a Further Reading section that will take you to a variety of sites and reference points to help you wrap your head around all of these details.

So what does “The Modern Web” have to say for itself?

Chapter 1 describes the Web Platform, sets the stage, and talks a bit about the realities that have led us to what I described in the opening paragraphs. It’s a primer for the ideas that will be covered in the rest of the book. Gasston encourages the idea of the "web platform” and that it contains all of the building blocks to be covered, including HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. It also encourages the user to keep up to date in the developments of browsers, what they are doing, what they are not doing, and what they have stopped doing. Gasston also says “test, test, and then test again”, which is a message I can wholeheartedly appreciate.

Chapter 2 is about Structure and Semantics, or to put a finer point on it, the semantic differences available now to structure documents using HTML5. One of them has become a steady companion of late, and that’s Web Accessibility Initiatives Accessible Rich Internet Applications or WAI-ARIA (usually shortened to ARIA by yours truly). If you have ever wanted to understand Accessibility and the broader 508 standard, and what you an do to get a greater appreciation of what to do to enable this, ARIA tags are a must. The ability to segment the structure of documents based on content and platform means that we spend less time trying to shoehorn our sites into specific platforms, but rather make a ubiquitous platform that can be accessed depending on the device, and create the content to reside in that framework.

Chapter 3 talks about Device Responsive CSS, and at the heart of that is the ability to perform “media queries” what that means is, “tell me what device I am on, and I’ll tell you the best way to display the data.” This is a mostly theoretical chapter, showing what could happen with a variety of devices and leveraging options like Mobile first design.

Chapter 4 discusses New Approaches to CSS Layouts, including how to set up multi column layouts, taking a look at the Flexbox tool, and the way it structures content, and leveraging the Grid layout so familiar to professional print publishing (defining what’s a space, where the space is, and how to allocate content to a particular space).

Chapter 5 brings us to the current (as of the book writing) state of JavaScript, and that today’s JavaScript has exploded with available libraries (Burgess uses the term “Cambrian” to describe the proliferation and fragmentation of JavaScript libraries and capabilities). Libraries can be immensely useful, but be warned, they often come at a price, typically in the performance of your site or app. However, there is a benefit to having a lot of capabilities and features that can be referenced under one roof.

Chapter 6 covers device API’s that are now available to web developers thanks to HTML5, etc. Options such as Geolocation, utilizing Web storage, using utilities like drag and drop, accessing the devices camera and manipulating the images captured, connecting to external sites and apps, etc. Again, this is a broad survey, not a detailed breakdown. Explore the further reading if any of these items is interesting to you.

Chapter 7 looks at Images and Graphics, specifically Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and the canvas option in HTML5. While JPEG’s, PNG’s and GIF’s are certainly still used, these newer techniques allow for the ability to draw vector and bitmap graphics dynamically. Each has their uses, along with some sample code snippets to demonstrate them in action.

Chapter 8 is dedicated to forms, more to the point, it is dedicated to the ways that forms can take advantage of the new HTML5 options to help drive rich web applications. A variety of new input options exist to leverage phone and tablet interfaces, where the input type (search box, URL, phone number, etc.) determines in advance what input options are needed and what to display to the user. The ability to auto-display choices to a user based on a data list is shown, as are a variety of input options, such as sliders for numerical values, spin-wheels for choosing dates, and other aspects familiar to mobile users can now be called by assigning their attributes to forms and applications. One of the nicer HTML5 options related to forms is that we can now create client side form validation, whereas before we needed to rely on secondary JavaScript, now it’s just part of the form field declarations (cool!).

Chapter 9 looks at how HTML5 handles multimedia directly using the audio and video tags, and the options to allow the user to display a variety of players, controls and options, as well as to utilize a variety of audio and video formats. Options like subtitles can be added, as well as captioned displayed at key points (think of those little pop-ups in YouTube, etc. yep, those). There are several formats, and of course, not all are compatible with all browsers, to the ability to pick and choose, or use a system’s default, adds to the robustness of the options (and also adds to the complexity of providing video and audio data native via the browser).

Chapter 10 looks at the difference between a general web and mobile site, and the processes used to package a true “web app” that can be accessed and downloaded from a web marketplace like Google Store. In addition, options like Phonegap, which allows for a greater level of integration with a particular device, and AppCache, which lets a user store data on their device so they can user the app offline, get some coverage and examples.

Chapter 11 can be seen as an Epilogue to the book as a whole, in that it is a look to the future and some areas that are still baking, but may well become available in the not too distant future. Web Components, which allows for blocks to be reused and enhanced, while being in a protected space from standards CSS and JavaScript. CSS is also undergoing tome changes, with regions and exclusions allowing more customizable layout options. A lot of this is still in the works, but some of it is available now. Check the Further Reading sections to see what and how far along.

The book ends with two appendices. Appendix A covers Browser support for each of the sections in the book, while Appendix B is a gathering of chapter by chapter Further reading links and sources.

Bottom Line:

The so called Modern Web is a miss mash of technologies, standards, practices and options that overlap and cover a lot of areas. There is a lot of detail crammed into this one book, and there’s a fair amount of tinkering to be done to see what works and how. Each section has a variety of examples and ways to see just what the page/site/app is doing. For the web developer who already has a handle on these technologies, this will be a good reference style book to examine and look for further details in the Further Reading (really, there’s a lot of “Further Reading that can be done!).

The beginning Web Programmer may feel a bit lost in some of this, but with time, and practice with each option, it feels more comfortable. It’s not meant to be a HowTo book, but more of a survey course, with some specific examples spelled out here and there. I do think this book has a special niche that can benefit from it directly, and I’m lucky to be part of that group. Software Testers, if you’d like a book that covers a wide array of “futuristic” web tech, the positives and negatives, and the potential pitfalls that would be of great value to a software tester, this is a wonderful addition to your library. It’s certainly been a nice addition to mine :).
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on 3 December 2015
not worth the ink, tells you nothing you don't already know, key chapters have missing info....badly edited/proof read
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on 23 August 2015
I have to say found it a bit boring, but some sections for first half seemed quite interesting.
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on 23 September 2013
This book covers the relevant aspects of the changes that have occured in web development over the last 10 years.
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