Update October 2017

Chrome now uses document.documentElement for scrollTop. Chrome, Safari, and Firefox support document.scrollingElement.

When discussing animating document scroll with jQuery, there are often examples given like this:

$('html, body').animate({scrollTop: 200});

You’ll notice both the document and body elements are selected. This is due to inconsistencies between browsers. The standards mode approach is to use the document.documentElement, but quirks mode uses document.body.1

While the approach to target both works, it can be potentially problematic. For example, if you have a complete callback on the animate, it will get called twice, once for each element:

$('html, body').animate({
  scrollTop: 200
}, {
  complete: function () {
    // I’m doing cool stuff after the animation.
    // Whoops! I’m doing it again.

This can prevented using something like Underscore’s _.once(), but ideally we could solve for the root issue.

To that end, there’s a working draft for a new document attribute called scrollingElement. It would be used in lieu of documentElement and body as a consistent approach across browsers.

Unfortunately, there currently isn’t much support for scrollingElement2. If you want to start using it today you could use this function or the polyfill.

For now, I’m continuing target both elements.

  1. Firefox and Internet Explorer use the former, Safari and Chrome (and probably Opera) use the latter. 

  2. At the time of writing, the next version of Chrome will support it (Chrome 44).