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  • June 4, 2022, 1:26 p.m.

So, is HTML a Programming Language?

So, is HTML a Programming Language?

HTML defines the structure of web pages online. Depending on your age, you might know HTML. But what is it really? Is HTML a programming language? It’s a bit of a know topic.

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language.

Okay, but what is the text and why is it hyper? Hypertext is actually a piece of text that is used to reference another piece of text. Specifically, it’s text that contains links (hyperlinks) to other text. It can include graphics, video and sound. Markup language tells the browser what the structure and style of the webpage is.

If a website was a house, HTML would be the beams defining its shape. It’s made up of a series of elements that tell the browser how to display content. When you wrap HTML around something, you’re saying “This is a heading”, “this is a link”, “here is a new paragraph”, etc.

HTML Programming Language

HTML is a Programming Language. This ultimately depends on your definition of a programming language. Let’s consider that for a minute. A programming language, at its core, is a set of syntactical rules. These rules instruct a computer to perform specific tasks. Each programming language has its own set of keywords it understands. These help it organize instructions. Just the same way as with human language, we use programming languages to communicate with computers.

Programming languages come in two main types: low-level and high-level.

Low-level programming languages are your 0s and 1s. A processor can run these languages directly without a compiler or interpreter. These languages are very fast for this reason, but can be hard for humans to understand.

That’s why high-level programming languages exist. These languages are more user-friendly and readable for humans. They need a compiler or interpreter to translate the language into machine language.

HTML might not be considered a programming language.

Programming languages are Turing complete when they are able to run programs. Things like addition, multiplication, if-else conditions, return statements, storing/retrieving/deleting data, etc. Can HTML do this? Well, not exactly. HTML by itself doesn’t really “do” anything, or contain any logic. It can’t do math, evaluate expressions, declare variables, create functions or manipulate data. You couldn’t do addition or subtraction with HTML. There is no way for HTML to take input and produce output. We use HTML for structural purposes. Things like telling the browser which content is a header, a list, an image, and so on, but it’s not really functional.

What about a coding language? Are HTML and CSS considered coding?

HTML is often combined with CSS, i.e. Cascading Style Sheets. As we learned in our beginner’s guide to CSS, it describes how HTML elements should be displayed on the screen.

So, we just said HTML is not a programming language (though some argue HTML combined with CSS3 specifically is Turing complete). 

But what about a coding language? When we write HTML combined with CSS, are we coding?

When you write HTML and CSS, you’re still writing lines of code, albeit in a markup language, not a programming language. At its core, you’re still codifying information to be used in the browser. HTML is a major part of front-end development.

So yes, you can consider HTML and CSS coding. Some also argue that HTML is a declarative programming language. A declarative programming language lets you express what you want done, but not how you want it done.

How to learn HTML and CSS

The great news is that for those starting off on their web development journey, these two technologies are some of the best ways in. Due to their aesthetic nature (HTML building a site and CSS styling it) you can start to view the results of your labor almost immediately.

There are many online courses that will help you learn HTML and CSS. In fact, pretty much every coding course worth its salt will start you off with them, before adding functionality with languages such as JavaScript.

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