Backend development, Application Development

Selecting The Correct Backend Technology: PHP vs Python

Feb 27, 2020

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Vikrant Bhatia
iOS DEVELOPER
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An application is only as good as the backend that supports it. Backend development is here to stay. As all businesses make their way through the internet, it is becoming imperative to have both a mobile app and a website at your disposal, which connects to a common server in the backend.

This is the need of the hour. To find and cultivate a workforce that is able to code the backend in a manner that assists in operations and data collection.

Both PHP and Python exist as the most used web development languages in the world. They are the backbone of any start-up or custom web application company that wants to create a splash in the market.

First, however, let's take a glimpse into the world of web designing

Web designing follows a particular hierarchy which traditionally looks like:

  • Client-Side Coding
  • Server-Side Coding
  • Database Technology


Development of websites takes place via the usage of a programming language, one that can assist in all three of the above without complicating the work at the same time give leeway to be dynamic.

Dynamic web-application has two facets as mentioned above, client and server-side. The client refers to the device on which the user is viewing your program and the server-side is where the program is running and handling and interpreting the commands being sent by the user.

PHP: Okay and Tested

Understanding PHP begins with knowing that it came into existence unintentionally. It started as a basic framework that would help a person track views on his CV online.

Initially a personal home page tool, PHP grew exponentially to become a framework that could be used to create entry-level dynamic web applications and then released to the public.

Since PHP was open source it expanded and oh boy did it expand. Two major things were seen during its expansion.

  • It had evolved from a set of scripts and so had the built-in support of cookies, defined functions and the ability to work with almost every popular database (MySQL, DBM). There was also the ease of usage attached to it with anyone even remotely familiar with C or Perl being able to make the jump.
  • The community associated with PHP was eager and driven. It pushed the language to grow in a manner that was not easy to handle. New features were being introduced without testing enough creating flaws in the design.


This did not slow down PHPs growth and even at this very particular moment over 80% of websites in the market are PHP driven.

This isn’t because it is just that amazing but rather because there are a lot of PHP programmers out there. Since it is an open-source language learning and finding solutions to your issues becomes easier. Finding a PHP developer is literally one of the easiest things you can do.

But, there is however a flip side to this. In which if by any chance you get stuck with a less than competent designer you are doomed. If you take into account how versatile PHP is as a language you will also realize that there are 30 ways to come to the same conclusion but if you don’t know the most efficient ways of getting there you will end up with a code that is very difficult to interpret.

Security issues also crop up in the absence of thoroughly checking a chosen library.

What is Python?

Python actually came into existence with the help of using the basic principles of another programming language being developed at the same time i.e. ABC.

Python, however, has emerged to become one of the most elegant, thought through and well-designed language on the block. It stands out with its ability to provide both flexibility as well as high performance.

Unlike how PHP came into existence Python from the get-go had the distinction of being a full-stack programming language. But this was not in association with the web which in turn has led to it not being the most used web programming language. Actually, just about 3% of all websites on the internet use Python.

A Comparison

But why is this the case? Why is PHP more popular even though python clearly has a technical advantage over it in almost every aspect. I say almost because the truth is PHP is dominating the marketing.

Understanding

Since Python is a general programming language, it is just much easier to pick it up. It is considered to be one of the leading languages to be taught to beginners to help them enter the world of programming. Python programs are easy to write as they are short and the syntax is extremely readable.

PHP began as something completely different and because of its origins as a web-only language, it has caveats that need to be understood before adopting the language in stand-alone programs.

Takeaway: If you are a beginner, chances are it's a brighter idea to concentrate on learning Python. PHP began as a program that was great for personal pages but with its sudden rise in popularity, it has increasingly become more complicated. So Python here wins by a large margin.

The Community

This is an important facet of any programming language, a strong community backing the whole program is great to help you out when you get stuck in problems. Both Python and PHP here are very close. PHP has its community to take primarily for its growth and Python gained notoriety when Google decided to use it for applications like YouTube. Even incredibly popular web applications like Pinterest and Instagram have a python based backend. However, the world's most popular social networking site Facebook uses PHP.

Takeaway: They are more or less on the same level.

Documentation

Since both languages have been around for an extensive period of time they are both privy to extensive documentation. Just have a look at their community pages and you will be more or less sorted.

Takeaway: Competition is stiff and both of them are pretty much neck to neck in the battle.

Pricing

It definitely helps that they are both open source. Both of them are widely available on the internet without any exceptions.

Takeaway: They are better than most of the paid programming languages available out there.

Library Support

This is where Python has a slight edge over the rest. Python is extremely nuanced and provides an exceptionally designed library for all its applications. PHP has Packagist which is good but no match to the Python supported libraries like TensorFlow, Keras, Theano, etc. What sets python truly apart is its ability to incorporate Machine Learning-Driven Libraries in its web framework.

Takeaway: If you are a company that is looking to incorporate a smarter Machine learning equipped library to your framework, Python is your best friend.

Debugging

Both are again caught in a tie as they are both equipped with some really great debugger tools. PDB is Pythons and PHP has the support of PDB and XDebug. Both the debugging tools provide you with usual features like stacks, breakpoints, path mapping and so on.

Takeaway: Like most times we are more or less stuck in a tie.

Understanding that both languages have their pros and cons is the first step to understanding that the programming work is evolving. PHP might be widespread at this given point of time in the case of usage on the internet but things are changing. Python is a relatively better programming language. But if you are not comfortable enough while using it, things can get ugly and fast.

Understand what your project requires and move forward from there.


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Vikrant Bhatia
iOS DEVELOPER