Is CSS a Programming Language?

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I’ve an actual distaste for this query. It would seem to be a enjoyable query to dig into on the floor, however the best way it enters public discourse not often appears to be in good religion. There are ulterior motives at play involving respect, protecting feelings, and wishes to break or keep the established order.

If somebody can one way or the other show that CSS isn’t a programming language (that is such a grey space that if that was your purpose, it wouldn’t be terribly onerous to do) then they get to maintain on feeling superior of their “actual” programming expertise and rationalize the truth that they’re (doubtless) paid greater than a front-of-the-front-ender specializing in CSS. That is sustaining the established order.

The reverse can be true. Should you can show that CSS is a programming language, maybe you may shift your personal firm or the business at massive towards equal respect and pay towards front-of-the-front-end builders. That is breaking the established order.

Let’s say we might all agree on a boolean true or false on if CSS is a programming language. What now? If true, is pay normalized amongst all internet staff? If false, do CSS specialists deserve pay cuts? If true, does everybody begin respecting one another in a means they don’t now? If false, do CSS folks need to eat lunch within the boiler room? I’ve doubts that something will change; therefore my distaste for the dialogue in any respect.

Regardless of the information, it’s unlikely most individuals are going to just accept even the likelihood that CSS is a programming language. I imply, packages execute, don’t they? No person doubts that JavaScript is a programming language, as a result of it executes. You write code after which execute that code. Maybe you open a terminal window and write:

> node my-program.js

Certain as eggs is eggs, that program will execute. You can also make “Whats up, World!” print to the terminal with console.log(“Whats up, World!”);.

CSS can’t do this! Um, properly, until you write physique::after { content material: “Whats up, World!”; } in fashion.css file and open an internet web page that masses that CSS file. So CSS does execute, in its personal particular means. It’s a domain-specific language (DSL) quite than a general-purpose language (GPL). In that browser context, the best way CSS is advised to run (<hyperlink>, normally) isn’t even that totally different from how JavaScript is advised to run (<script>, normally).

Should you’re searching for comparisons for CSS syntax to programming ideas, I believe you’ll discover them. What’s a selector if not a kind of if assertion that runs a loop over matches? What’s calc() if not a direct implementation of math? What’s a bunch of media queries if not a swap? What’s a customized property if not a spot to retailer state? What’s :checked if not boolean? Eric lately made the purpose that CSS is typed, and earlier, that CSS is chock filled with features.

For higher or worse, having a solution as to whether or not CSS is a programming language impacts folks. One faculty professor had made a degree of telling college students that CSS shouldn’t be Turing full, however is now re-considering that place upon studying that it’s. Regardless of the intention there, I believe the business is affected by what laptop science professors inform laptop science college students 12 months after 12 months.

Lara Schenck has dug into the Turing-complete angle. Should you’re making an attempt to settle this, Turing completeness is an effective proxy. It seems that CSS mainly is Turing full (by settling the mobile automaton angle of Rule 110), simply not totally by itself. It entails a considerably advanced use of selectors and :checked (shock, shock). Lara makes an astute level:

Alone, CSS is not Turing full. CSS plus HTML plus person enter is Turing full!

Nonetheless, say you don’t purchase it. You get it and even concede, OK advantageous, CSS is basically Turing full, nevertheless it simply doesn’t really feel like CSS (or HTML for that matter) is a programming language to you. It’s too declarative. Too application-specific. No matter it’s, I actually don’t blame you. What I hope is that no matter conclusion you come to, the reply doesn’t have an effect on issues that actually matter1, like pay and respect.

Respect is so as, it doesn’t matter what any of us come to for a solution. I don’t take into account CSS a programming language, nevertheless it doesn’t imply I believe it’s trivial or that my specialist co-workers are any much less worthwhile than my Python specialist co-workers. Wouldn’t that be good? I believe there’s an fascinating distinction between declarative markup languages and different sorts of languages, however they’re all code. Oh cease it, you know the way considerate solutions make me blush.

I’d wish to see much more nuanced, respectful, and agenda-less feedback like that when these discussions occur.

Similar to “web site” vs “internet app.” Whether or not or not you suppose there’s a distinction, I might hope folks aren’t making selections that have an effect on customers based mostly on what taxonomical bucket you suppose your factor goes in.

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