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By: Manish Shewaramani

Node JS Vs PHP - Choosing The Right Backend Technology

Even though PHP is a decade-old technology, it’s still being used by 79.1% of all websites on the internet. And the good news is, it’s still one of the preferred programming languages for backend development of a web application.

Node JS, on the other hand, is also a backend development technology that became wildly popular in the past recent years. Currently, Node JS is used by many popular platforms such as Medium.com, Unsplash, Wall Street Journal, and Gizmodo to name just a few.

If you want to see more examples of Node JS, we have also written a comprehensive blog on Famous Companies that use Node JS. Be sure to check that out.

Coming back to the subject, the Node JS Vs PHP battle has been going on for a while now. So, with this blog, we aim to share how to choose the right backend technology for your next project.

Node JS Vs PHP – Let’s Settle The Debate!

Before we get into the details, let’s get over basics.

While both Node JS and PHP are two most powerful server-side technologies, but that’s sort of the only thing common between them.

PHP, for example, is a programming language, while Node JS is actually an open-source JavaScript Runtime Environment.

Node JS was, in fact, the first to make it possible to use JavaScript language for the backend development. That being said, if you’re interested in getting a deeper understanding, read our blog: What is Node JS.

Where PHP is Better?

PHP is a general-purpose programming language that became popular due to its CMS (content management systems) such as WordPress, Magento, Laravel, and many more.

Let’s look at some of the things PHP is best for.

1 – Mixing content with code

In PHP, everything is a template!

What we mean by this is that there are no extra files required to code in PHP. You can just open up a PHP file, use PHP tags, and start writing code in a matter of seconds.

Apart from this, PHP also allows mixing content with the code. For example, let’s say you’re writing thoughts into text for your website and half-way through you come up with an idea to add a little if-else statement to make it intuitive.

2 – Deep code base

PHP came out in 1994 and since then, it’s been used everywhere. For example, the most popular website development platforms WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are written in PHP. And not only these platforms, but most of their plugins are written in PHP as well.

In a nutshell, today the world wide web is filled with PHP code and it’s just waiting for you to download and use as per your needs.

3 – SQL

PHP was built with MySQL and all its variants in mind. But, even if MySQL isn’t what you want to use, you can still use other databases from Microsoft and Oracle.

In addition, if you want to transition from MySQL to any other database, it can be easily done with just a few changes to your existing database queries.

Overall, if you want to use SQL and your app heavily relies on database queries, PHP might be the ideal choice for you.

4 – Coding speed

If you ask any web developer who has been coding for a little while, he/she will tell you that writing code in PHP always feels faster.

In fact, it actually is. This is mainly because PHP has no compilers, no preprocessors, no deployment, or no JAR files. And it’s for this reason PHP is sometimes a better option to develop a project quickly.

Where Node JS is Better?

Node JS, as mentioned earlier, is an open-source, cross-platform JavaScript runtime environment that helps to build large-scale and efficient web applications.

Ever since its inception, Node JS has quicked gained the number 1 position among the best web frameworks and is now being used by over a hundred thousand websites over the world.

That being said, let’s talk about the things where Node JS is best for.

1 – Separating concerns

While the possibility of mixing content with code sounds perfect on the surface, but it often ends up crippling your project.

Node JS, on the other hand, helps developers to separate the cosmetic layer from the logic layer to make the code cleaner to understand, maintain, and modify later.

In fact, if you ask any expert Node JS developer, they’ll tell you that Node JS frameworks running on the Node JS environment actually make the application development process better by separating the model, view, and controller.

2 – More modern features

PHP was released 15 years ago before Node JS and therefore it has more open-source PHP files than Node JS. And while looking at numbers using PHP sounds perfect, but there are lots of PHP plugins whose developers are praying that someone will download and use.

Not only that, but there are also lots of PHP libraries that have not been updated, while the Node JS plugins are a lot newer and all of them are built keeping latest architectural approaches in mind.

In addition, you can also reconfigure or extend any Node JS plugin and pass functions around objects, making the Node JS much more flexible to use for web application development.

3 – JSON

If you’d like to use Node JS, but your application demands using SQL, Node JS still has you covered. In simple terms, Node JS also has open-source libraries through which you can use SQL in your application development project.

In fact, in addition to SQL support, the Node JS libraries also provide support for all modern NoSQL databases through JSON. Though PHP also has its own JSON libraries but the JSON libraries in Node JS are far simpler to use compared to PHP.

4 – Application speed

While we mentioned that coding applications in PHP is faster than Node JS, but if you think about it, having a fast application speed is much more important than having a higher coding speed.

Node JS helps to achieve its fast application speed through its callback mechanism. It’s so brilliant that it helps to save a lot of time in terms of server response.

5 – Richness

Though “Less is more” is perfectly said by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. But it doesn’t really apply to the web application industry anymore.

Today, we have smartphones with more power than a room of Cray computers and personal computers with video cards that can handle almost any heavy-processing. So, why should we consider stripping down application richness when we can have big websites with eye-catching and dramatic effects?

Node JS is capable of building slick websites with powerful and intuitive user interfaces compared with PHP.

In a Nutshell…

As you just saw above, between Node JS Vs PHP, Node JS is clearly a winner for building backends of modern web applications. Therefore, you should definitely go ahead and hire Node JS developer to start building your project.

PHP, on the other hand, should only be considered when you have very specific requirements in your project and when you want to avail the PHP benefits.

Overall, if you want to build a standardized solution, use PHP. For almost all other requirements, including chat apps, single-page applications, or building collaboration tools, Node JS is without any doubt a perfect choice.

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