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Is HTML Really A Programming Language?

Many developers say that HTML is their primary development language, but can HTML really be seen as a programming language?

There is a new version of the survey which can be viewed and completed here: VisionMobile Developer Economics Survey.

Earlier this year analyst company VisionMobile polled more than 13,000 developers as part of their biannual Developer Economics survey, and 11% of those developers indicated that HTML is their primary development language.

This raises the question: can HTML really be considered a “programming language”, or just a tool for the layout of JavaScript functions?

Image Credit: OneSpaceMedia
Image Credit: OneSpaceMedia

Most programmers work in more than one language, so we have to consider that those who selected HTML might do their coding in JavaScript and their layout in HTML.

Unfortunately, only 13% of those who said their primary language was HTML admitted to also using JavaScript, so how are these people creating applications?

HTML has come a very long way since it was first conceived, and has capabilities we would normally associate with a development language. These days one can find demonstration applications written in HTML.

Zero Lines JS is a good example. A graphical game, requiring the player to navigate between approaching enemies at increasing speed to a suitably-irritating soundtrack.

It might not be the next Watch Dogs, or even the next Candy Crush Saga, but it would be hard to deny that it’s a real application.

Less gaudy is the aptly named “You Don’t Need JavaScript for That”, which demonstrates various techniques to accomplish programmatical tasks without recourse to programming languages.

Examples include a tabbed panel (bringing content to the front based on the selected tab) and an image slideshow, all done entirely in HTML.

Purists will moan, of course, that these examples don’t make it a “real” language, and that HTML is nothing more than markup.

Developers aren’t as hierarchal as they used to be, but those closer to the metal still look down on those who’ve traded an intimate knowledge of the hardware for speed of development.

C programmers consider objects to be unnecessary fluff, but concur with users of C++ that anything which isn’t run through a compiler is just improper (and that includes Java with its bytecode nonsense).

Java programmers consider anything without proper encapsulation to be faking object orientation, while JavaScript developers see no reason for strong typing, and consider HTML to be a layout tool.

But despite being at the bottom of the heap, we can see that HTML5 is being used to create applications, and it must therefore be considered a programming language.

We might argue whether validating a filled-out form constitutes an application, but when you can crash a spaceship into an oncoming armada then there’s little room for discussion.

VisionMobile is running a new survey, asking developers what language and tools they’re now using, including those who choose to program in HTML.

You can participate in the new survey to weigh in on HTML, using the feedback form at the end to let VisionMobile know how you feel about HTML being included in the list of languages, and what you think might end up on that list next time.

 

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