As a WPF developer, I was confused when I discovered that I'm not considered front-end because my platform isn't web, even though I clearly deal with user interaction and the front end of an application.

One thought I had was that desktop applications don't have a separation between the front and back ends (the UI and domain, respectively) like the web does. However many applications do have this distinction, especially in the enterprise. Most of the desktop applications I've developed professionally were merely desktop clients for data served up and received by web APIs. In this sense, the client is very much the front end.

In this answer, the writer states that "front-end" must run in a browser whereas "client-side" could potentially include desktop applications.

So... why does "front-end" only pertain to web development?

  • 16
    Because human language is not based on mathematics but on "human patterns". Anything goes as long as enough people agree. Dictionaries and grammar books follow actual usage, not the other way around. The web folks simply were the first ones who had a need for such a term, previously "terminal" (mainframe times) or "desktop" (-programming) were used. If you decide you want to expand the meaning go ahead - if you manage to spread your interpretation far enough, or just within a group, you extend the meaning. Human language is flexible, messy, context-dependent - and always adapting!
    – Mörre
    Sep 30, 2017 at 6:40
  • 6
    Front end is used in a number of places. Compiler development is one of the older places where front-end has a well-defined meaning.
    – Erik Eidt
    Sep 30, 2017 at 15:36
  • 1
    Front end is frequently a shorthand for html, css and javascript.
    – jmoreno
    Sep 30, 2017 at 19:59
  • On Wikipedia, Front end applied to computing has six meanings. Only one is web development.
    – mouviciel
    Oct 2, 2017 at 9:25
  • Worms 2 is not a webapp, but it does use the term. I was thinking of an older game from Microprose but couldn't find a reference. You also #include <libpq-fe.h> when working with PostreSQL client lib. Etc. Anyway, you get the idea.
    – user44761
    Oct 5, 2017 at 21:32

3 Answers 3


The premise of your question is wrong. When you say that you "discovered that WPF is not considered 'Front End' development", what you really meant is that you discovered that large swaths of the industry are so web-centric that they can use "Front End" as shorthand for browser stuff. This is by no means a universally accepted definition for the phrase, as Wikipedia makes evident.

It's all about context. In the corporate/enterprise dev world, WPF is still very much a "front-end" skill. Even the author of the post you linked to said only "front-end...generally runs in a web browser based interface" (emphasis added).


Because web development is a large field with a large number of technologies involved, and all teams need people for the backend and for the frontend of their web applications. People who know everything well are rare hence the specialisation into "backend" and "frontend" developer (or further).

You may work on a non-web frontend, but they are looking for someone who is proficient in some stack like CSS/HTML/Javascript/React. If you don't work with those technologies, then that your work is also a frontend isn't very relevant to the people trying to fill these positions in their teams.

There is no reason why "front end" should only apply to web development, but web vacancies are such a huge part of the market that "front end web developer" gets shortened to "front end developer".


I just did quite a bit of research regarding your dilemma, and unfortunately I can't find any definitions for "front-end development" which include desktop applications. Most just refer to the basic HTML/CSS/JS development pattern.

Something I did notice: One commonly mentioned feature of front end apps that your apps may (or may not) be lacking is that they not only send data to the server-side, but they also receive a response from the server, based on said data, and subsequently provide the user with some type of response-dependant output. In other words, they are interactive.

In summary, as far as I can tell, there is currently no cookie-cutter definition regarding the F-E application's domain, but the features and functionality of the app do matter.


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