PHP vs. Node.js: Which one is the Undoubted Back-end King

PHP and Node.js are two of the most prominent server-side languages of their time. With time, these technologies have gained immense popularity, widely used among huge corporations, tech giants, small enterprises, and even individual developers as both are free and open source.

PHP, known for its user-friendly nature, is the best scripting language for efficient backend development. In contrast, Node.js provides a runtime environment that harnesses the power of JavaScript for the backend. Both technologies are successfully playing the role of server-side languages having large communities.

There is often debate among their communities about which programming language is better. This article will compare PHP and Node.js with their key features to determine who is undoubtedly the back-end king.

Before delving deeper into the differences between them, let’s begin with a brief introduction to both technologies for some context.

What is PHP?

PHP is a scripting language that was launched 28 years ago. It can be embedded in HTML to create dynamic web pages and that’s become the reason why it gain popularity all over the world & the tech space in just a few years. It is one of the easy-to-use languages of its time. PHP has a huge contribution to the development of the modern website era you are seeing today.

It has the ability to run in the browser as well as on the command line allowing its users to test code directly without the hassle of running it on the web browser.

Nowadays, it is used to build a wide variety of projects including servers, APIs, microservices, websites, and applications.

PHP at a Glance

  • Cross-Platform: Unlike most of the languages of its time, PHP is cross-platform. So you can run it on any operating system you own, such as Mac, Windows, or Linux.
  • Ease of Learning: As we already mentioned, it is a beginner-friendly language and is extremely easy to use, only requires basic programming knowledge. 
  • Open Source: PHP is open source, which means anyone can view the code. Plus, it’s free to use, which makes it extremely popular for small companies and individual developers.
  • Database Support: PHP generally supports all types of databases, although it has some limitations compared to other technologies which we have discussed later.

What is Node.js?

Node.js is newer than PHP, although it also spent 14 years in the hands of developers. It is a runtime environment built on the Chrome V8 engine that compiles JavaScript and converts it to native machine code.

Node.js, since it uses JavaScript to write server-side code, makes it easy for a JavaScript developer to use and build their website without having to learn a new language. Node.js is initially used to build servers, but over time a number of frameworks have been implemented that allow developers to easily integrate HTML to build fully functional websites, one of the popular frameworks is Express.js.

Like PHP, Node.js is also used to build various projects including servers, APIs, microservices, websites and applications.

Node.js at a Glance

  • Cross-Platform: Just like PHP, Node.js is also cross-platform meaning you can run it on Mac, Windows, and Linux as well.
  • Ease of Learning: Node.js is completely based on JavaScript, so it is easier for those who know JavaScript better.
  • Open Source: Node.js is also open source, this is even mentioned in its popular definition: ‘Node.js is an open-source runtime environment‘. It can be a good cost-effective solution for small businesses and developers.
  • Database Support: Node.js also supports all types of databases, it has libraries for each type of database, making it easy to connect and implement them.

PHP vs Node.js: Understanding the Differences

In order to identify the true Back-end King, we needed to compare various aspects of each one by one. Let’s begin with the most important one, which is performance.

1. Performance and Architecture

PHP is using a traditional request-response architecture where each request is executed sequentially. In other words, we can say it is synchronous in nature. Since it is synchronous it has a blocking I/O model, resulting in higher latency.

Node.js, on the other hand, is a single thread but is asynchronous in nature and due to this it has a non-blocking I/O model, resulting in very low latency.

To understand this better, suppose you have two tasks, A and B but A task may need to wait for a friend. Now PHP will wait for that friend to come and then do task A and then do task B, whereas Node.js is that smart guy who starts doing task B and when a friend comes, he starts doing task A as well. Hence no blocking of other tasks while doing one.

Also, Node.js is built on the V8 engine which is faster than Zend Engine which PHP is based on, although it also depends on the use case too.

2. Ease of Use

Using PHP is simple as its syntax is similar to other popular programming languages. If you are already familiar with languages like C++, Java, or Perl, it will be easy for you to implement PHP.

However, for a JavaScript developer, Node.js becomes easier to adopt as it has the same syntax and logic to implement. So, if you are already familiar with JavaScript, it will be easy for you to use Node than PHP.

3. Community Support

Choosing between PHP and Node.js based on community support can be difficult, as both have huge and active audiences.

Since PHP has a longer history, it contains a vast repository of resources and documentation, which is useful for beginners looking for guidance. However, Node.js, with its large library, still attracting developers and making a diversified community with modern concepts and knowledge. Also, Node.js get support from the larger JavaScript community, making its developer network even larger.

4. Frameworks

In terms of frameworks, both Node.js and PHP have large sets of options. Laravel, CodeIgniter, Yii, Laminas, and Phalcon are some of the most popular PHP frameworks.

But if we talk about Node.js, there are millions of frameworks and tools that can install using Node Package Manager. NPM has libraries literally for everything, it is the largest repository of libraries. Thousands of libraries are launched weekly. So Node.js gets a thumb in terms of libraries and frameworks availability.

5. Security Measures

Since PHP is older than Node.js, it is continuously being updated to ensure the best security. Also, popular PHP libraries such as Laravel, Symfony, and Yii, often come with built-in security features that increase overall application security using PHP. Additionally, the blocking and synchronous nature of PHP also help to enhance security.

However, Node.js is a newer technology and when developing an application using it, it may be required to install additional modules using npm. This can cause security risks as anyone can upload to the npm repository. Additionally, it is non-blocking and asynchronous which makes it even more risky.

Although third-party libraries can enhance security for both, PHP implements security measures even better on its own.

To run Node.js and PHP safely, you need proper security that end user trust easily. While developing a site on Node.js and PHP server, the website needs an SSL certificate. SSL certificate is one of the ideal ways to secure both servers. While installing an SSL certificate on Node.js and PHP servers, it secures the information between the server and the user’s browser.

6. Database Integration

PHP is known for its proficiency in implementing relational databases such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, etc. It can also be used with non-relational databases, but the implementation process can be complex and not yet optimized.

However, if you want to work with non-relational databases like MongoDB, it is recommended to use Node.js instead. Node.js has lots of tools and libraries that make working with NoSQL databases easier by providing features like easy schema building and defined datatypes. Also, the NPM repository of Node.js has a wide range of packages for any database type making it ideal for both.

7. Real-Time Applications

PHP is best for building applications that require decent computing power or CPU processing. However, it may not be the most optimal language for these when compared to alternatives like C++, Java, and Python, but it gets the job done. It is also commonly used to create CMS for managing projects and building e-commerce applications since it can handle large sets of data easily.

On the other hand, Node.js is a single-threaded that may not handle as much load as PHP, but it is super fast in request and response due to its non-blocking, event-driven architecture. This makes it ideal for building real-time, data-intensive applications that are required to run multiple tasks simultaneously such as chat systems, cloud gaming, streaming services, etc.

8. Companies Using PHP and Node.js

There are many large companies that utilize both PHP and Node.js technology. Some popular companies that use PHP include Facebook, WordPress, Slack, Wikipedia, Yahoo, MailChimp, Tesla, and Shutterstock. Meanwhile, popular companies that use Node.js include Netflix, PayPal, LinkedIn, Uber, eBay, Medium, Trello, Walmart, and LinkedIn.

Conclusion

To conclude, it’s not right to say which one of them is better. If you’re new to programming and have some experience with JavaScript then Node.js is the easier option for you to create backend. It’s also suitable for handling concurrent requests and responses due to its non-blocking I/O. However, if you’re familiar with other languages like C++ or Java, PHP may be easier for you. Plus, PHP is best for creating CMS and applications that don’t require handling asynchronous processes. If you’re still unsure, try both languages to see which one you find more comfortable to work with. That’s all for this article. We hope you enjoy reading it. 

Aditya Gupta
Aditya Gupta
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