HTML, a Markup Language Not a Programming Language

Among coders there’s this intriguing debate revolving around whether HTML (HyperText Markup Language) can be classified as a programming language

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Key Takeaways

  • HTML is different from traditional programming languages, like Python, C, or JavaScript. It serves a distinct purpose, making it more appropriate to categorize it separately.
  • The fundamental nature of HTML is akin to a blueprint rather than a set of executable instructions.
  • Use of terms such as “programming language” can create confusion and potentially act as a tool for gatekeeping in the tech community.

To many, this discussion might seem trivial, but for those who live and breathe coding, it’s a matter of precise terminology and accurate understanding. Let’s break it down and examine the nuances of this intriguing discourse.

HTML vs. Programming Languages: More than just Semantics

Programming languages such as Python, C, or JavaScript are fundamentally designed to instruct the computer to perform various tasks. They enable the creation of complex algorithms, data processing, and facilitate a vast array of functionalities. In contrast, HTML, CSS, and SQL serve entirely different purposes. HTML is essentially a markup language used to structure content on the web. It describes rather than instructs, akin to providing a blueprint for how a webpage should look. Consequently, it is less accurate and potentially misleading to group HTML alongside traditional programming languages.

HTML stands out from programming languages in that it does not provide a series of steps or instructions for a computer to follow. Instead, it creates a structural layout for web content, acting more as a roadmap than a set of commands. While HTML helps structure a webpage, it doesn’t dictate computer actions like a programming language would. It simply describes what goes where on a web page, almost like interweaving metadata with data, which is a characteristic of markup languages.

The Language Debate: A Matter of Usefulness

The use of the term “programming language” often creates confusion and can even be used as a tool for gatekeeping in the technology community. While languages like SQL have dialects such as PL/SQL, which can function as programming languages, it doesn’t necessarily make SQL a programming language. SQL is a query language, a tool for managing and manipulating databases, rather than a language with the ability to perform complex computations or control structures, which is a prerequisite for a language to be Turing complete – a fundamental characteristic of true programming languages.

HTML, a Markup Language Not a Programming Language

Defining languages like HTML or CSS as programming languages may create a confusing narrative for newcomers in the tech world. It’s like signing up for a coding boot camp and instead of learning Python or JavaScript, you end up learning how to write ChatGPT prompts. The beauty of terms lies in their ability to convey clear meaning, and in this case, it’s simply more accurate and less misleading to call HTML a markup language.


For those unfamiliar with HTML, there are various HTML guides available that can provide an introduction to its syntax and usage, helping individuals understand its unique position in the world of coding. While the debate may seem trivial to some, it underscores the importance of accurate definitions and terminologies in conveying the right information. While HTML, CSS, or SQL are indispensable tools in the tech world, categorizing them correctly as markup or query languages helps maintain clarity and avoids the confusion that can come from incorrectly labelling them as programming languages. The respect for terms and their accurate usage makes communication in the tech world more precise, inclusive, and accessible to all.

Read also:

Harvard Introduces AI To Teach Coding In Fall Semester

Java and Go: A Comparative Analysis of Two Powerful Programming Languages

Can You Describe What a First Programming Job Typically Looks Like?

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