What is a PL? Survey says: SQL yes, Excel maybe, HTML no

January 25, 2018
Following up on the "What is a programming language?" survey, it appears there's a wide range of disagreement amongst my readers of what constitutes a programming language. I attempt to analyze possible sources of disagreement.

This note is a follow-up to the survey in my previous note, What is a programming language?.

IMPORTANT: Before reading onwards (and biasing yourself), I encourage you to fill out the accompanying survey: https://goo.gl/forms/CuZJEziNTIRU3Q4p1

Previously, I asked: what is a programming language? I have my own crazy ideas, but I wanted to hear from you. And you overwhelmingly responded: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The above graph was generated from this survey (as of 2/21/18), where I asked readers “Yes/No/Abstain” to whether a number of tools should be considered programming languages. The values graphed are the percentage of people who think that the tool is a programming language (excluding “Abstain” results). The respondents largely consist of readers from Hacker News and Reddit. I will continue to update the graph as more readers respond to the survey.

As expected, a vast majority of respondents agree on the traditional PLs: C, Java, and Javascript. Past that, the results get more interesting!

For an alternative perspective, I encourage you to read my earlier post, wherein I make the claim that all of the above are programming languages. That means when it comes to things like Eclipse, I am the 1%!

Discuss this on Hacker News or send me an email at wcrichto@cs.stanford.edu.