PHP vs. JavaScript: The Backend Winner in 2021

PHP vs. JavaScript: Which One to Choose

A few years ago, when PHP and JavaScript would be compared - or, rather, discussed together - the answer would be clear-cut: PHP for server-side scripting and JavaScript for client-side scripting. However, with the introduction and the growing popularity of the Node.js framework, today, JavaScript can very well be used as a server-side scripting language. And this is where the real PHP vs. JavaScript comparison lies.

PHP stands for Personal Home Page, and it is a general-purpose scripting language focused on web development. JavaScript, on the other hand, is a high-level, multi-paradigm programming language that is used on both the server-side and the client-side. However, it differs from compiling languages such as Java or C++ in the sense that it is a scripting language interpreted directly by the browser. You can learn more about Java vs. JavaScript or Python vs. Java.

In this article, we will focus on the similarities and differences between JavaScript and PHP.

Historical Trends

JavaScript is, by far, the most used programming language today. But what’s more interesting to note is that it has held this title for the past 6 years at least. When JavaScript started to offer backend development as well, and not just frontend capabilities as was previously claimed by many, the PHP and JavaScript discourse began to heat up.

Companies such as Netflix, Amazon, LinkedIn, and Tumblr started heavily using Node.js. Enterprises like eBay and AliExpress are using it as their primary backend language, putting subtle pressure on previously reigning languages like PHP.

Today, JavaScript is being used in 94% of websites. This might seem to tilt things in its favor, but the debate on which of these two languages should be used for the backend has just started.

The Ever-Increasing Popularity of JavaScript

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Although JavaScript was a fairly popular and commonly-used language for client-side web development, with the introduction of Node.js in 2009, it became a full-stack language. This means that it is now capable of client-side as well as server-side development. And as such, the PHP vs. JavaScript comparison is fair and frequent. However, there are reasons due to which JavaScript is often chosen over PHP, such as the following.

  • It can be combined with multiple languages, such as HTML, XML, and AJAX, etc., whereas PHP can only integrate well with HTML. It also comes with many state-of-the-art frameworks.
  • In most cases, it performs faster than PHP. The asynchronous nature of Node.js allows running through the entire code without any wait for functions to execute. The V8 engine for Node.js brings further speed.
  • There is greater universality with this language since a developer knowing just JavaScript can create full-fledged applications without having to learn separate backend and frontend frameworks.
  • With its vast support for different frameworks and architectures, it is more cloud-friendly, allowing better use of the microservices architecture.

Advantages of PHP

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Some of the major reasons why PHP is a highly in-demand backend language are given below. They will help you understand why many prefer this language when discussing PHP vs. JavaScript.

  • It is an extremely flexible language, allowing you to use it with multiple languages. This enriches any software solution because each feature can then be coded in the language most optimal for it. This gives PHP not only code flexibility but configuration flexibility too. PHP is also lauded for its flexible database connectivity, i.e., it can connect to a large number of databases, including PostgreSQL, Apache, and MySQL.
  • In the JavaScript or PHP discussion, it must be mentioned that since PHP is an open-source scripting language, it is very cost-efficient to use. From licenses to software to related databases, there are hardly any expenses involved. In fact, many of the development tools that are used with PHP are open-source and, thus, free of cost. This makes PHP an excellent choice for startups and small companies that are on a strict budget.
  • Since it is compatible with most operating systems, such as Windows, Linux, and macOS, PHP can run on multiple platforms and integrate well with different software. This leads to reduced time and effort.
  • PHP also stands out because of its compatibility with cloud services. Today, software and digital products are increasingly using cloud solutions. A PHP-based application can easily be supported by various cloud services - for example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda. By deploying an application on the cloud, its accessibility and scalability are enhanced.

Apart from these, PHP stands out for its efficient performance, ease of learning, multi-threading, and high scalability. Lastly, it comes with a very widespread and helpful community, which adds to its popularity.

Which Language to Choose for Server-Side in 2021?

If you have an existing project in PHP, you can continue working with it while keeping in mind to update any languages, frameworks, or libraries that you are using to their latest or the latest compatible versions.

That being said, JavaScript generally works well for any kind of backend, server-side project, particularly large projects. Some examples include AR/VR projects, IoT products, and 3D gaming. PHP, on the other hand, is the go-to option when working on blogs, learning management systems, content management systems, or e-commerce websites. In addition to this, if your application requires a higher level of security, choose PHP over JavaScript; the former is more secure since it is not visible in the browser.

When it comes to learning these languages, if you are in web development, JavaScript can safely be termed a necessity. Without a strong command of this language, your work could very well be limited to the backend only. Similarly, in this domain, you will regularly witness heavy use of PHP when dealing with the server-side.

Conclusion

While such an in-depth comparison can help you make a more well-informed decision regarding the right backend language to use for your programming projects, it must be kept in mind that PHP and JavaScript are quite often used in conjunction - leveraging the power of both these highly useful languages. If you’re uncertain about the use of PHP and JavaScript together in a project, you can utilize custom software development services to help get you started on this exciting journey.


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