Adventures in the HTML5 history API

2011-09-08 19:20


When developing drinkmixen we decided that we needed to have a javascript slider for pagination (like the GitHub tree slider).

The difference is that our slider is used in pagination.


To accomplish this we had to look into the HTML5 history API. This is not a HTML API per se but a JavaScript interface. The main idea is that the click on a page link, next or previous button is intercepted. The JavaScript method pushState() is then used to actually push a state to the browsers history stack.

The main idea looks like this (with jQuery):

    history.pushState({location: this.href}, "page", this.href);
    $("#center").replaceWithGet(this.href, current_url);

So, a new state is pushed to the browser history stack and then the new page is loaded with an Ajax GET call and the slide is done with a custom jQuery animation. Now the url is updated when the user clicks on a page link and all is fine.

The next problem arises when the user clicks his/her back button in the browser. Then we need a popState handler to handle this event. What we basically do in the popState handler is just load and display the appropriate page with a nice animation.

It is not all that easy though… It works fine in some browsers but not at all in others. This is since different browsers have different opinions on when a popState event is to be fired. For a nice crossbrowser solution (except for Internet Explorer of course that does not at all support the history API) I would suggest looking at pjax.

To have real cross-browser support for the history API there is always History.js but since we did not want to include more external JavaScript libraries we decided that Internet Explorer users will have a less pleasing visual experience.

P.S. I often use IE myself :) D.S.

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