- Colection of 65 PHP scripts for $4.29 each
Before diving deeper, let’s give a short introduction of the two programming languages and talk about what they have in common and what makes them different from each other.
- Cross-platform – This means they work in different environments and platforms, e.g. Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and different browsers.
- Similar syntax – There are also some syntactic similarities between both languages and they work with very similar concepts such as variables, arrays, for loops, and more. If you know these types of fundamental principles from one language, it’s easier to use them in another. You just need to learn the new syntax.
What is PHP?
PHP stands for “Hypertext Preprocessor”. If you’re confused that this acronym doesn’t line up with its name, know that PHP originally comes from “Personal Home Page Tools”. This is what PHP developer Rasmus Lerdorf called a bunch of scripts he used on his own website already back in 1994. A few years later, a completely rewritten version of the language was launched and the acronym got the new meaning.
The programming language is very popular. Famous users include Facebook, Lyft, Wikipedia, Slack, and Tumblr. While you can use it for software development, it’s probably most popular as the basis of content management systems (CMSs) like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Here it creates HTML output by pulling data from a database and embedding it in dynamically created pages.
That’s also what PHP is most known and used for. Yet, it has other capabilities, such as evaluating form data, sending and receiving cookies, and a lot more. For a more detailed overview of some of the functionality, check our PHP cheat sheet.
However, the most important thing about PHP is where it is executed. It’s a server-side scripting language, which means it’s being processed on the server that houses the files. The browser only receives the result to display without ever having access to the underlying PHP code. Because of that, PHP is also regarded exclusively as a back-end language.
What Can You Build With Either Language?
PHP, though flexible, is primarily used to create dynamic web pages. It’s great for building blogs, ecommerce sites, and forums but also WordPress themes and plugins. You can also use it for user authentication, cookie authentication, session handling, and to build a server back end. Finally, it’s also suitable for software like instant messaging and other real-time applications.
With the above in mind, which is the better programming language? In order to find out what speaks for and against each, let’s go over some pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of PHP
Let’s start off with PHP and its advantages:
- Easy to learn – The programming language has lots of existing functions, an easy syntax, and is quite beginner and user-friendly.
- Popular – There already is a lot of PHP-based software that makes web development cheaper and easier. See the aforementioned WordPress, which runs 40+% of the Internet. With PHP skills you can hit the ground running and start building websites immediately.
- Database access – PHP runs on the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack, which means it works well with MySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, Oracle, and other database formats. This is great for working with loads of information, such as for an online store.
- Open source – There is a large community around PHP. It’s flexible and customizable, works on almost every operating system, browser, and server, and is also free.
- Security – Since PHP is not visible in the browser, it’s much harder to hack. It can also do cookie and session handling, authenticate usernames and passwords, do two-factor authentication, and has built-in features for data sanitization.
However, PHP also has its downsides:
- Back end only – In terms of web development PHP has a single role: running the back end. It’s not a front-end language, so that’s all there is.
- Limited – You can combine it only with HTML. If you want to create an app with PHP, you need to know four different syntax systems (all of LAMP) plus HTML and CSS.
- Needs a runtime environment – In order to use PHP, you need a (virtual) web server.
- Slower – As already mentioned, its dependency on communicating with the server makes PHP slower than its counterpart.
- Extendable – You can combine it with HTML, XML, and Ajax. Plus, there are lots of frameworks that make development faster and easier.
- Faster – Fewer server requests and less load and traffic on the server increase performance.
Which Language Is More Popular?
What’s more, JS has been the most popular language in the Stack Overflow developer survey for nine years in a row.
It’s also the language with the most pull requests on Github (18%) while PHP only scores eighth with roughly 5%.
Which Is Easier to Learn?
Another way to look at which language to choose is to see which is easier to pick up.
Here, PHP is pretty clearly ahead. It’s easy to get into, has loads of built-in functions that allow you to do stuff right away, and is overall better for beginners.
Finally, let’s look at the career opportunities each programming language offers.
Roughly, pick PHP if you plan to develop a blog or an ecommerce website, if you’re using some of the LAMP technologies already, and/or if you work with a database.