PHP vs Python: Important web development features and comparisons

By James Tredwell on November 1, 2021

One of the skills that are sought after the most in today’s fast-paced, technologically advancing world is Backend development. Every single business, be it a startup or a fully-grown business, will always require a business website and an app. Both website and mobile app development require a server that connects in the backend. Because of this, all backend developers have been in high demand in different companies and the market as every company is willing to spend a lot of money on the developers for managing the backend and developing it well. If you hire  web developer, you will know that all backend developers are different from the programming languages they use. The commonly used programming language that is mainly used for backend development include:

  • Python: One of the most popular choices of backend programming in Python. This happens to be a programming language that is relatively newer and is known for its library support.
  • PHP: The other programming language that has gained widespread popularity is PHP. It has been present in the market for a long time, and due to its features, it is being used till today. For example, the major social media giant Facebook has a significant part of its backend developed using PHP.
  • JavaScript: 

Another prevalent programming language that is gaining a lot of prominence due to its excellent web frameworks like NodeJava has captured a considerable place in the market at present. 

  • Ruby: Many startups are shifting from using the usual popular programming languages to ones with solid web development frameworks like Ruby on Rails. This has recently gained a lot of prominence and standing out in the crowd.
  • Dot NET: Although this happened to be a proprietary framework, currently, Microsoft has worked towards open source. This programming language has also attracted several developers to use this Language and is mostly used in businesses because of the backing provided by Microsoft.

The languages that have stood firm and have gained mass appeal are Python and PHP. Yet, new developers can be confused regarding which backend framework they should be learning. If you hire web developer, they will say that there are several things one needs to consider while choosing the best programming language like features, comprehensive framework, libraries, and time to learn the Language. But if you’re confused about what fits you the best, then these pointers will help you decode it. 

What is Python?

Python is a high functional programming language that was developed by Guido van Rossum and launched in 1991. Python can be used for web development, software development, system scripting and the like. Several data scientists and programmers love Python for its varied features like run on interpreter system, ability to work on different platforms, accessible to Cody syntax similar to the English Language and the like. Despite Python having several uses, the major ones include web applications, modifying files, handling extensive data, connecting database systems, and performing complex mathematics. If you hire web developers, they will say it is easy to learn features; beginners find Python to be a convenient language to start their programming journey.

Why Python?

  • The syntax of Python is easily understandable and easy to debug. This makes the source code of Python easy to maintain. 
  • Python is a portable language as it can be run on different platforms.
  • This programming language offers pre-built libraries to make development tasks more manageable.
  • When you hire web developer, he can address internal issues of memory and garbage collection with Python.
  • The interactive shell of Python allows the developers to test everything before execution.
  • Being a database friendly language, Python offers database interfaces to all the primary DBMS systems.
  • Python supports GUI applications and also has a robust framework for the Web. Example: Django, tkmter, WXPython.

Features of Python

  • Python is a programming language that is easy to learn and maintain.
  • Using the same interface, Python can be implemented on several platforms.
  •  Modules of low level can be easily included in the Python interpreter.
  • This programming language is the best for large code due to its structure. 
  • It also has the feature of automatic garbage collection.
  • Python can offer debugging and interactive sessions.
  • It offers high dynamic data types and dynamic data checks.
  • It allows easy integration with codes from C++ C and Java.

What is PHP?

PHP, also known as the Hypertext Pre – Processor, is an open-sourced scripted programming language widely used amongst developers. If you hire a web developer, you will understand that this programming language can generate several dynamic page content. It can open, create, write, read, delete, and close the files on the server. PHP can also collect form data and receive and send from cookies. It is database friendly, allowing easy addition, deletion, and modification in databases. It is also used for encryption of data and control of user access.

Why PHP?

  • This programming language runs on various platforms like Mac OS X, Unix, Linux, and Windows.
  • PHal offers compatibility with most servers like IIS and Apaches. 
  • PHP is easy to learn and run on the server-side.
  • It has a range of databases, and hence it is database friendly.
  • It is open-sourced and therefore free to download. 

Features of PHP

  • PHP supports various databases like MySQL, Oracle and easy database integration. 
  • If you hire web developer, you will know that the use of PHP to code is more manageable than other scripting languages.
  • The efficiency compared to other scripted languages like JSP and ASP is more. 
  • PHP can be used for free as it is open-sourced and easily downloadable.
  • This programming language also has some predefined error reporting constants that help to generate an error notice or warnings.
  • PHP creates a summary of the recent accesses of a user allowing access logging.

PHP vs Python Comparison in regards to Performance

Since we know the features of both programming languages, Python and PHP and why they are loved amongst programmers, these are a few essential comparison keys between them. 

1) Ease of Learning the Language:

Python is easier to learn compared to PHP, and there is no doubt about it. As Python is a general-purpose programming language, learners tend to grasp it quickly. Python is so simple to learn that most beginner courses in learning and teaching the fundamentals of programming use Python. If you hire a web developer, they will say that this programming language is shorter and, compared with other languages, it is easy to write and handle. Because of this, it has become the preferred choice for several applications. The syntax of Python is more straightforward and easily readable compared to all the other codes written in the different programming languages. PHP was never a programming language that was meant to be a general-purpose language. PHP was mainly designed for web applications and was more sophisticated with stand-alone programs. Hence, it is natural that PHP will take a lot more time to learn than Python. 

The time one takes to learn the programming language should be a crucial factor while choosing which programming language is better. For beginners, Python is better. At the same time, PHP can be difficult for a complete layman. PHP has grown in its complexity recently but was designed to create simplistic personal pages. The development community of PHP is also trying hard to provide a lot of support to its new programmers. Yet, owing to the inherent simplicity, Python overrules PHP in this regard as the syntaxes and constructs are very easy to read and grasp.

2) Community Support of the Language:

Both Python and PHP have fantastic community support. As PHP has been in the market for a longer time for the development of web applications, the community of PHP developers have increased over time and resulted in a vast community that provides support. Despite this, Python is a good player in this regard as several Python developers are continuously developing web applications in the market. This has resulted in excellent community support. As both the programming languages come to a neck-to-neck competition, it is challenging to determine the actual winner. The popularity of Python stems from the fact that Google started using it for some of the popular apps like YouTube. Several influential and eminent startups like Reddit, Pinterest, and Instagram also used Python as their programming language. Yet, the main backend of Facebook has been written in PHP and not Python. 

3) Documentation available for the Language:

Extensive documentation is available for both PHP and Python. There are great forums, websites, and discussion boards that offer excellent tutorials on developing applications using PHP and Python. Competition is a lot even in this regard, and both are equally good depending on the documentation availability of the Language. 

4) Pricing of the Language:

As both the programming languages are open-sourced and easily downloadable, they are entirely free. Here, both do not compete with each other but significantly win over the other paid web frameworks.

5) Library Support Offered by the Language:

The place where Python wins in comparison to PHP is library support. PHP lags in this regard wrt to Python. Yet, Packagist, the PHP packages repository, is a good backbone holding the PHP programming upright. Most of the web applications are being developed using Machine Learning. Learning libraries like Theano, TensorFlow, Keras, Scikit Learn are all excellent Machine Learning libraries provided by Python. Python stands out because these libraries are easy to use and understand, fast, and integrate well with web frameworks. Hence, if you hire web developer, they will say developing applications like these using Python is easier when compared to any other programming language.

6) Speed of the Language:

Despite the PHP 5. x versions being very slow and taking a lot of time in execution, the new launch of PHP 7. x is swift. It is almost 3 times faster than a regular Python program. Speed becomes a crucial assessing factor in performance-critical applications. For example, in a core banking system that gets millions of hits every day, a delay of three times can be significant and impact the overall system performance. Hence, PHP wins in this regard over Python. Despite this, for most of the simple applications, the scale of noticeable time lag is meagre. For most practical purposes, 30 milliseconds is the same as 10 milliseconds, given that the application is not latency-critical.

7) Choice of Web Frameworks:

The most common Python-based web frameworks are Flask, Django, Pylons, Pyramid, and the like. On the other hand, the PHP based web frameworks commonly used include Zend, Codeigniter, Laravel, Symfony, and the like. Django is a Python framework that is highly scalable, fast, secure and easy to grasp and use. It is pretty robust, and hence it is used widely in several applications. Similarly, the web frameworks of PHP – Codeigniter and Laravel are commonly used in the market. Most of the PHP applications currently are built on either of the 2 frameworks. Both Python and PHP are equally good choices in this regard. Yet, new developers enjoy and feel most comfortable using Django, given that the development time in Django is comparatively low and it is also easier to set up.

8) Debugging

Python provides a powerful debugger called PDB or the Python Debugger. Beginners feel that PDB is well documented and is easy to use. But on the other side, PHP provides the XDebug package for debugging. Both PDB and XDebug provide the debugging features that are commonly used, like stacks, path mapping, breakpoints and the like. There is no clear winner in this regard as both Python and PHP stand equal here.

To summarise the comparison and assessment of the two programming languages, it can be understood that both PHP and Python are robust languages. If you hire web developer, he might prefer PHP over Python, and some other developer might choose otherwise. Yet, Python seems to be the programming language of today and wins over PHP in several regards. If one is experienced in PHP, sticking to PHP is the best option. If you are still learning and at the intermediate level, you can consider learning Python to get better job opportunities. And if someone is starting out and wants to learn backend development, then Python is the best start, and they can easily upscale in no time to learn the Python-based frameworks.

Author Bio. :- Raman Arora is a blogger and passionate about programming languages, Web Development & Designing, Software Development and Digital marketing. Raman enjoys studying about today’s trending topics and is passionate about writing on all types of Programming languages.

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