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Before moving on to discussing the 7 most important differences between NodeJS and PHP, let us first take a brief look at both the technologies.
Created by Rasmus Lerdorf, PHP made its debut sometime in 1995. Originally, PHP meant Personal Home Page but now it is a recursive backronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. The open-source, server-side scripting language is developed specifically for web development.
Unlike other popular programming languages, PHP evolved without a written formal specification up until 2014. The original implementation of the programming language acted as the de facto standard up until that point.
Facebook, Flickr, Wikipedia, Yahoo, and Tumblr are some of the leading names that have been built using the PHP programming language.
Developed by Ryan Dahl, NodeJS made its first public appearance in May of 2009. With the introduction of Nodejs, it became possible to create pure JS applications that can operate outside the web browser environment.
PHP vs NodeJS: The Battle Begins!
To make the comparison between PHP and NodeJS easy to understand, we have divided the complete section into various categories:
PHP gets preference over NodeJS for usage in applications where there is no frequent interaction between the client and the server side. On the flip side, NodeJS gains the upper hand for applications that require constant client-server interaction.
Best application scenarios for PHP use are:
- Applications that use LAMP stack in API development
- Content Management Systems (Drupal and WordPress both use PHP)
- Developing CPU-intensive applications, such as meteorology apps and scientific apps
NodeJS is widely employed for:
- Creating single-page applications, including individual websites and resume portfolios
- Developing highly scalable server-side applications (Primarily due to the non-blocking I/O and event-driven model of Nodejs)
- Real-time applications, such as chat apps and video streaming applications
Code Type and Execution Speed
There are two types of programming code:
- Synchronous: The code is executed on a line by line basis. The next line of synchronous code is executed only when the execution of the previous line of code has been completed
- Asynchronous: Entire code is executed at the same time
PHP is mostly synchronous with the exception of some APIs that behave in an asynchronous manner. If a previous line of synchronous code has a function that takes much time to execute then the rest of the code have to wait. As such, this increases the overall execution time.
NodeJS code, on the flip side, is asynchronous. This means that the JS engine runs through the entire code at once and there is no need for waiting for a function to successfully complete execution. Hence, NodeJS can be very fast compared to PHP code.
There is, however, a catch with the asynchronous code. A program can get stuck in callback hell if there are a lot of functions that need to be chained. It requires piping data from one function to the other.
Nonetheless, NodeJS has a workaround for this issue. The async/await feature of NodeJS enables a block of code to execute like if it was synchronous code.
More often than not, PHP is used with traditional or relational databases to the likes of MariaDB, MySQL, and PostgreSQL. Though there are ways to use NoSQL databases with PHP, doing so is not so frequent in the industry.
Though NodeJS works fine with SQL databases, the trend is shifting towards using NoSQL databases, such as CouchDB and MongoDB.
SQL database systems, especially MySQL are prone to SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and other attacks. Though NoSQL injection attacks are a registered vulnerability for NoSQL-based databases, the chances are much lesser than the SQL databases.
This is so because NoSQL databases design philosophy resists such attacks and also the fact that they are newer to the database scene.
Switching between different environments and programming languages contribute to lessening efficiency while writing the code. Moreover, it can be infuriating at times.
While writing back-end code in PHP, the developer frequently switches between different programming languages. This is due to the fact that PHP is mostly used as a part of the LAMP (Linux, Apache HTTP Server, MySQL, and PHP) stack.
NodeJS features a wide variety of frameworks. Derby, Express, and Meteor are some of the most popular frameworks used with NodeJS development projects. Additionally, new frameworks for NodeJS are coming out every now and then.
There is a galore of great PHP frameworks available to ease and hasten web development. These frameworks assist in building agile, robust, and secure web applications.
PHP makes use of module installing technologies, most notably:
- PEAR – A framework and distribution system for reusable PHP components
- Composer – A tool for dependency management in PHP. Allows the developer to declare and manage the project-dependent libraries
NodeJS comes prepackaged with NPM package management system and its registry. It is easy to use and publish than the modules belonging to PHP.
Unlike NodeJS, PHP doesn’t come bundled with modules. A developer needs to download and install them manually.
PHP versions prior to v5.4 required downloading and setting up LAMP and XAMPP servers. However post that, PHP comes bundled with an inbuilt development server.
NodeJS, on the other side, comes prepackaged with core modules, including the file system, HTTP, and DNS. These help in developing customized web servers.
Express.js, Koa.js, and Sails.js are some of the most popular NodeJS frameworks for empowering Node.js running web servers. Also, each of these can be set up using a mere 4 lines of code at maximum.
So, that completes the comparison between PHP and NodeJS. Both backend technologies have their distinct advantages and pitfalls over one another. Hence, making the choice between them depends largely on the project requirements.