PHP VS Node.JS: Which One Is Better?

This question proves one thing. Both PHP and Node.js are two of the best web development solutions around. And they power the backend of websites, making them powerful and dynamic. They help develop apps of any complexity, and they follow different concepts and architectures.

So when you are faced with the question – PHP or Node.js, what should be your choice?
Before going further, let’s take a peep into a little history of the two.

PHP is a scripting language created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994, and it comes in various manifestations like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal etc. It began as a dynamic language with syntax that’s similar to Perl, and was introduced as a basic programming language. It is free, runs on several platforms like Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Unix etc, while supporting a number of databases.

Launched in 2009, Node.js is an open source runtime server environment using Javascript. It is ideally used for server-side application. The platform is single-threaded, non-blocking event loop, the Google Chrome V8 JavaScript engine, and a low-level I/O API.

One language across tech stack

Once upon a time, life was simple, with Javascript handling the browser details, and PHP was assigned the task of handling server-side. WordPress, Drupal, Facebook and similar sites all partnered with PHP to serve their customers.

Then changes upon changes came, and someone discovered that Java can be used to run the server as well. Now, you have the benefit of one scripting language across various application development stacks, creating the mantra “Javascript everywhere.”Node.js makes it possible to have single language across the tech stack.

When you want to mix code with content

PHP makes it possible for you to beautify your website by mixing code with content. Adding little parameters in the URL and you can mix data/text from the database. You can open up magic PHP tags and then code within seconds. No need to have elaborate architectures or extra files. So if you are looking for an option that makes it easier to convert your thoughts into text, PHP would be a better choice.

Code Compilation Performance

You can say that Node.js is slightly better than PHP here because it uses V8 JS Engine for JIT (Just-in-Time ) compilation. This is a good strategy for dynamically typed languages, but the problem with it is that it increases startup time a little bit. PHP Zend uses Interpreted Compilation strategy which leads to less optimised code execution.

On account of flexibility

The main purpose of PHP was to act as a connector between the server database and HTTP requests. In normal cases, it is this simple layer of basic functions and a few variables that you would normally need.

But with Node.js, you can enjoy better flexibility because you can pull out the libraries through JQuery. It is so powerful and easy to use, that you can play around with the functions as you would want. You can easily do different styles of programming with Javascript.

Performance

Both the web development solutions are good in the performance category, but if you want to choose a winner, NodeJS could be it. It has some features that makes the apps run faster – Shorter request processing chain, Ultra fast V-8 engine, Direct and persistent server connections, Callback functions without idling. True PHP provides good responsiveness, but the other solution is faster.

Suitable for applications

Node.js is a good choice for building complex applications that need powerful processing. Being an efficient and responsive web server, you can implement real time web applications with it. It can also help you build complex games, and not just apps like simple online games. PHP would be a perfect choice for CMS based ecommerce applications.

Connection to Relational Databases

PHP was initially intended to have active interaction with relational DBMS. The server part in the PHP would contain a number of simple tools for interacting with databases. Node does have appropriate libraries, but it is not easy as in PHP because the latter lets you access data by inserting the code in the right place in the page.

So, which one would you choose?

The standoff between Node.ja and PHP is a classic one. For several years, both Javascript and PHP did not have any overlapping applications. PHP provided database connections and helped in write server side apps. Node.js was focussed on providing server side apps. But with Google V8 Javascript engine, Node.js also came along and sang a different tune. It entered the realm that PHP had monopoly in.

The end result was that the developer world split into two different camps – one for PHP, and other for JS. So if you are looking to choose one of the two, then it is important to realise that both languages are good in their own way, and they have both stood the test of time, and the spirit of competition.

PHP would be a good choice when you want to implement projects with sequential execution and while using relational databases actively.

Node.js would be great for creating microservices and ultra fast web applications. However, it is a much newer technology when compared to PHP as it is 15 years younger than the latter. If you are looking to combat the current problems in web technologies, you can trust Node.js.

If you are an enterprise, you may have to consider your own requirements. For example, if you are looking to build blazing fast applications, Node.js would be a good choice. If you want to build a reliable solution with less effort, PHP would be perfect. It is also much easier to find PHP developers, when compared to the other. If you persist in getting a Node.js developer, then you might have to train them, because it is not easy to find a skilled one, most of the time.

If you are a developer and would like to know whether to move from PHP to Node.js or vice versa, then it is entirely up to you. It takes years to gain experience in a new framework/technology, so if you are willing to try your luck in the next one, you can do so.

Interesting Articles:
Interesting article on performances of php and node.js
Comparison between popular web development solutions php and node.js

Picture Source: Flickr.com/ Trujillo/ Dirk Haun


About the author: Reema works as Thought Leader at PHPBabu.

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