Discussion on: Are CSS and HTML programming languages?

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George Mauer

Odd that no one has pointed this out

Everyone is focusing on the "language" part, which without a doubt CSS and HTML are. But what about the "programming" part? Well we don't have a definition there so that bit is a lot more difficult. It becomes a matter of what we "feel" like that term means to us.

At the base level it means making a system do what you want it to do. Of course in that case, so is writing an excel spreadsheet, or drag-and-dropping, or customizing your OS with new colors, or creating a new web app account, or even just calling up IT and telling them to fix things "or else".

That feels wrong.

For some, "programming" means "general-purpose programming"- that you not only can, but realistically might, sit down and code some algorithms in it. In that case sure, HTML and CSS are not programming, and neither is Brainfuck, or Arnold, or the more basic usages of Prolog.

You can't really fault those people for being bewildered at the resistance to what to them seems like such an obvious statement. For them, "HTML and CSS are not programming languages" is not gatekeeping, it's an attempt to educate on what seems to them to be an important distinction.

So why can it be so upsetting to hear it?

I suppose there is another definition we can go with: "Things that might be a central part of the job for someone who works professionally as a programmer". In that case, not only of course are HTML and CSS programming, but hearing that phrase - for someone who is primarily engaged in HTML and CSS - sounds like a denial of their entire career and track.

Conclusion? Maybe we all need to be aware when using terms without strict definitions that they might mean different things to different people.