In the article, we’re going to answer these questions. We will look at these programming languages from different angles and find in which cases you should pay attention to each of them.
- Brief Overview of the Languages
- How Often They Were Used in 2020
- Performance Comparison
- Benchmark Tests
- Is Fullstack a Real Advantage?
- JS is a Better Choice for Backend if…
- PHP is a Better Choice for Backend if…
PHP vs. JS: Brief Overview of the Languages
Backend programming language
Full-stack programming language
Best suit for
– Any type of website
– Especially good for eCommerce, blogs, education platforms, company’s websites
– Any type of website
– Perfectly suits highly loaded and visited websites
– When the constant connection is required: chats, real-time notification
Many high-quality experts
MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, MariaDB
MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, SQLite
Even though it’s primarily considered a client-side scripting language, JS is a full-stack programming language by design. In 2020, it was the most commonly used programming language, according to the annual Stackoverflow developer survey results. Developers use it for creating dynamic web pages, web and mobile applications, games, and server-side scripting. All of this is possible through numerous frameworks.
JS Frameworks for Server Scripting
For backend web development, JS has a separate runtime environment called Node.js, allowing developers to execute JS scripts without using the browser. Node.JS is an open-source platform, becoming a basis for many different server scripting frameworks on JS. The most popular of them are Express.js, Meteor.js, Koa.js, Sails.js, Hapi.js, and Nest.js. These frameworks are powerful and flexible tools that have some advantages for solving particular issues, such as websites where a constant client-server connection is essential. Node.js is successfully used in Netflix, Paypal, Uber, Trello, eBay, and Medium.
PHP is an open-source programming language embedded in HTML, founded in 1994. For 26 years, the language made a long way from PHP 1 to PHP 8, which was announced last year. It established itself as a simple and, at the same time, efficient scripting language with a decent security level. Detractors often said that PHP was already obsolete, and such powerful technology as JS, Python, or Ruby would push it out of the market. Despite all of this, elePHPant continues to march ahead confidently and will not leave web servers worldwide.
Based on PHP, numerous content management systems, template engines, and frameworks have been developed. Among them are such big CMS names as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, OpenCart, PyroCMS, and Magento. PHP is firmly entrenched in the eCommerce industry, and it’s unlikely that somebody or something will shake its position soon. As for frameworks: Laravel, Symfony, CodeIgniter, Phalcon, Aura are all PHP frameworks. The language also integrates with all popular databases like PostgreSQL, Oracle, Sybase, and MySQL.
JS is much more prevalent in developers’ environments than PHP, but let’s see which one is frequently used for backend scripting in web development. According to w3techs, PHP is used by 79.1% of all websites. It’s used nine times more frequently than ASP.NET with the second-highest rate of 9.2%. JS, in turn, is only in 8th place with a modest 1.2%. It is worth noting that this statistic doesn’t mean then PHP is better than others in all aspects. The reason for such a giant gap between the leader and its competitors is the historical development path of web technologies. PHP was one of the pioneer backend languages, and it dealt with its tasks well, so web developers didn’t use anything else up to a certain point in time.
This diagram shows us comparing the five most popular server-side programming languages in popularity and traffic simultaneously. As in the previous one, PHP looks like a jack of all trades and the most popular technology. However, when it comes to high-load traffic websites, it loses leadership.
Along with technical progress growing, the requirements and functionality of the website grew too. In some cases, other languages solved particular tasks better than PHP. For example, Ruby allows you to create a quick time for a market solution, and Python is a better solution if a website uses machine learning or data science in its work.
We also recommend reading our post Python vs. Ruby: Which is Better for Your Project if you’re looking for server-side programming for a website.
A traditional comparison by availability, simplicity, extensibility, and other similar characteristics doesn’t make sense. Currently, PHP and JS are approximately identical in terms of maintainability, development speed, community, and ecosystems built around them.
JS, namely Node.js, uses another I/O model, known as non-blocking I/O. JS, in contrast to PHP, always has one active thread. All requests are queued, and once the server finishes processing one I/O request, it immediately takes on the next in a queue without waiting for any action from the client’s side. As practice shows, such an algorithm of query processing is fast and efficient; thus, JS demonstrates higher performance and throughput than PHP ceteris paribus. However, far from all websites need this. An interesting fact is that node-based tools were created on PHP too, but they couldn’t compete with the extremely popular and efficient Node.js.
Processing time (sec)
According to tests conducted by Benchmarks.games, Node.js was faster than PHP in executing 8 programs from 10. It’s worth mentioning that they use the fastest programs for tests, and the results of both languages in the real environment can differ.
One of the main advantages, which is often attributed to JS in the PHP vs. JS battle, is full-stack developers. Theoretically, it is always better when the frontend and backend use the same codebase, but practically, a combination of JS and PHP is time-honored and doesn’t have significant weaknesses.
On the other hand, full-stack developers usually cost more. Moreover, experienced web developers become full-stack experts anyway. It’s unlikely you will approach a developer who has the only PHP in his arsenal. For example, many PHP engineers in NIX also have VueJS, React, Angular, and Go expertise. Such a wide expertise range allows experts to understand each technology’s pros and cons better and choose each project’s optimal language or work on complex enterprise projects that usually employ plenty of different technologies.
JS is Better Choice for Backend if…
JS is a better choice for the backend if a continuous connection between users and the server is crucial for your system. This can be a streaming service, dynamic single-page apps, chats, systems with real-time notification, and data updates. JS perfectly suits highly loaded and visited websites, and If the project already used such technologies:
Ember.js, Angular JS, ReactJS, jQuery, Backbone.js, VueJS
MongoDB, Node.js, Express.js, Meteor.js, Koa.js, Sails.js, Hapi.js, and other JS-based frameworks
PHP is Better Choice for Backend if…
PHP is an excellent cover for all backend needs of eCommerce solutions, especially for WordPress, Magento, OpenCart, Drupal, Joomla, and PyroCMS. If you will use database management systems such as MySQL, Sybase, Oracle, Postgresql, and MariaDB, PHP is preferred.