Nowadays, there’s lots and lots of different technologies to choose from. And many find it quite hard and confusing to decide which one to use for their project. This PHP vs Node.js comparison should help you make up your mind when it comes to the server-side development of your web app.

What is PHP?

This server-side scripting language was created in 1994. It is used mainly in web development. PHP stands for “Hypertext Preprocessor”. Most of the time, PHP is processed by an interpreter, powered by the Zend Engine, which is installed on servers like Apache or Nginx. PHP code can be embedded into HTML or HTML5 markup. This makes PHP really flexible and that’s exactly the reason for its popularity – PHP is now used in over 80% of all web servers.

Why many believe that PHP is better?

Many people believe that PHP is better because it’s much easier to use. Another argument in this discussion has to do with how long PHP exists. Because it’s been around for so long, there’s a huge knowledge base (over a million questions on StackOverflow) and lots of resources regarding the language. Another thing that comes up when we asked our developers what they like about PHP, was that it’s easier for them to set up the development environment and that PHP requires less code than Node.js. What is more, PHP is supported by all hosting services and supports more frameworks and CMS.

When to use PHP?

PHP is definitely a way to go when you’re planning on using a CMS like WordPress, Joomla etc. Also, if you need your app to be up and running on a variety of different browsers and operating systems, then PHP will be a great choice. We would also recommend using PHP if you plan on using a relational database. If your website is build used HTML and you would like to enhance it and really make it great PHP will come in handy in this situation as well.

PHP Pros

  • Resources – PHP has a rich codebase that includes platforms like WordPress and frameworks, which makes it easy to develop with PHP.
  • Made for web – Unlike many other backend solutions (for example Java), PHP is made specifically for web projects and can manage HTML, servers and databases.
  • Universal – PHP can be run on almost any server and platform and most hosting providers support it. Unlike with Node.js you don’t need a virtual server with SSH access to run PHP apps.

PHP Cons

  • Doesn’t work real-time. You cannot make PHP apps that work real-time without the use of AJAX.

What is Node.js?

Node.js is used to utilize JavaScript on the server-side. It was created in 2009 and brought JavaScript to use where it was never used before, contributing to the “JavaScript everywhere” saying. It’s an open-source environment powered by Google’s V8 JS engine (the same one they use for Google Chrome browser). Because Node.js has build-in libraries that take care of almost everything, it has become extremely popular among the biggest companies like Microsoft, LinkedIn or PayPal.

Why many think that Node.js is better?

Node.js has gained a lot of supporters around the world despite being a relatively new environment. It has build-in server support and its syntax is almost identical to JavaScript, making it extremely easy to use for anyone who uses JavaScript comfortably. It also makes use of just one syntax both on the front and the server-side, which means it’s easier to manage and reuse the code. Node.js also has module caching and a stream module which makes for better use of files and makes working with large files much easier.

When to use Node.js?

If you want to develop a real-time app (like Trello or Google Docs, where something is being changed by the user real-time) then Node.js would definitely be better than PHP. Node.js is very efficient with real-time apps: it makes it easier to handle multiple client requests, enables sharing and reusing packages of library code, and the data sync between the client-side and the server-side happens really quickly. Also, when it comes to apps that use streaming data transfer, they might be better to develop with Node.js. This technology works best when it comes to fast and scalable apps that are not heavy on the CPU.

Node.js Pros

  • Performant – Node.js is great with running multiple events at one time and maximizes the use of a single CPU. This makes it great for Real-time Apps or Single-page Apps.
  • Flexible – The are almost no rules and guidelines when it comes to Node.js. This means that the developers are free to choose the best solutions they want or need.
  • One language for all – Node.js enables you to use a single language for both the frontend and the backend which makes it easier to maintain, manage and reuse the code.

Node.js Cons

  • Doesn’t work great with bigger files – Node.js is not great when it comes to CPU-intensive operations. It doesn’t do well with processing large files.
  • Relatively new – Because Node.js is a newer technology it didn’t have the time do develop as much as PHP did. The community and resources related to it are much less impressive than those created around PHP.

There is no clear winner in the PHP vs Node.js battle

Unfortunately, we can’t just tell you that one of those technologies is better than the other. It all depends on what you want to build. This short guide will hopefully provide you with the information to make this decision, but if it still seems like a lot – contact us. One of our Senior Developers will help you choose the best tech stack for your specific project.