Editorial note: Throughout this post and much of our site, we use the terms “programming,” “developing,” and “coding” interchangeably, because they all mean the same thing.
Computer programming languages have long provided innovative ways for people to give instructions to computers. There are a wide variety of languages out there, but only some are categorized as modern.
Breaking down these modern languages
We routinely look to Stack Overflow as an objective source to understand the state of the programming industry. Their team conducts the most comprehensive developer survey in the world, connecting with more than 80,000 programmers. Their 2021 survey, which was released in August, is the basis for our breakdown below.
Second place in Stack Overflow’s survey is a tie going to the frontend languages Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). HTML describes the structure of Web pages while CSS describes the presentation and design of web pages. Using a house analogy, HTML is the structure (think walls, ceilings, cabinets, and floor) and CSS is the paint, wallpaper, tiles, carpet, and throw pillows.
According to the survey, Python is third most commonly used language, in addition to being the #1 most wanted language for the fifth year in a row. This means that for those who don’t currently use Python, it’s the language they want to learn next.
You may have heard of Python in a few contexts. For one, it’s a mature language that’s been around for 30 years. Second, it’s seen incredible growth over time because it’s a strong language for backend development. According to Python.org, “Python is powerful...and fast; plays well with others; runs everywhere; is friendly and easy to learn; is Open (freely usable)."
Structured Query Language (SQL) comes in fourth place in the survey and rounds out the languages we teach in our 19-week program. SQL is the language used in databases to handle information. Referring back to the housing analogy, SQL is the binder of all of the contracts, lists of materials, and all of the contractors’ contact information that you need to refer to in order to repairs, renovations, or upgrades to the house.
Understanding the difference between frontend and backend web development
The frontend of a website is everything you can see and interact with, including colors, styles, menus, buttons, and more. Let’s go back to the house analogy just one more time. The front end is the exterior of the house - the shape, the color, the wallpaper, the faucets, the light fixtures, and so forth.
Conversely, the backend is everything you can't see that makes the house work, like the plumbing, electrical wiring, HVAC, and more. On a website, the backend typically consists of a server and a database that make sure the frontend works.
The combination of front and backend makes a technology stack or “tech stack.” Companies typically choose one or more tech stacks to power their operations. And while throwing around the term “tech stack” is a fun (and very cool) thing to do at parties, what’s even more useful is having the skills to code and work with whatever tech stack your employer chooses.