NodeJS Vs PHP: Which is the best for your Web Development project?

NodeJS Vs PHP Which is the best for your Web Development project

Sunil Chavda This post was written by Sunil Chavda

Node.js and PHP are the two most effective web technologies for back-end development. Their contributions to server-side development have been phenomenal. Node.js serves both server-side development and client-side, while PHP frameworks have been helping developers for over three decades. Today, PHP covers 78% of the web space.
As compared to PHP, Node.js has a certain nuanced approach making it unique and quickly acceptable for full-stack development projects. Both stand at par and have their best advantages over each other. However, the developer community remains perplexed with this big question: Which option should I pick up for my next project? Should it be robust Node.js or should it be the ever-efficient PHP?
We know that both options are excellent and have pioneered excellence at different levels. To keep a check before choosing any one of these for a specific reason needs a deep understanding of both the backend technologies. Here is the blog that takes you through the core details of both the backend models to make you confident enough to choose anyone.

What is Node.js?

To curb the confusion, Node.js is neither a programming language nor a Javascript framework. Rather, Node.js is a unique setup that curls Javascript into its core to deliver a server-side scripting tool. Node.js is an open-source, single-threaded, cross-platform runtime environment that can build scalable and fast server-side and networking applications. Made up of event-driven non-blocking I/O architecture, Node.js operates on the Google V8 JavaScript runtime engine and is an effective tool for developing real-time applications.
Written in C and C++ programming languages, Node.js gives the following benefits to the developers:
  1. Provides full stack JavaScript both on the client-side and server-side making robust frontend and backend development 
  2. Simple to learn and friendly to the new web programmers who want to learn quickly.
  3. Abundant tutorials and a vast user community support.
  4. Event-driven and allows programs to sleep while other requests are available
  5. Faster and scalable due to the non-blocking thread execution
  6. Vast ecosystem with numerous open source Node.js packages 

Companies Using Node.js:

Companies Who Uses NodeJS

–  LinkedIn

–  Twitter

–  Spotify

–  Netflix

–  Ebay

–  Spotify

–  Walmart 

–  Uber

–  Trello

Pros and Cons of Node.js

Pros of Node.js

  1. Highly scalable due to non-blocking event-loop architecture
  2. Mostly suitable for parallel programming
  3. Can build real-time cross-platform apps without writing separate code.
  4. Flexible choice for front-end Javascript developers for building their back ends, keeping their productivity high with time optimization.
  5. In-built support for WebSockets to develop real-time applications
  6. Shorter time-to-market due to its light-weight and fast functionality 
  7. Abundant Node.js libraries and ready-to-use programs with assets from GitHub
  8. Choicest backend model for building serverless functions and microservices
Pros and Cons Of NodeJS

Cons of Node.js

  1. Poses a challenge for designing web apps that need sophisticated graphics rendering
  2. Lesser in-built security features
  3. Not much compatible with older or legacy systems
  4. Has an unstable API and needs to release new APIs regularly
  5. Cannot effectively support CMSes

What is PHP?

PHP is a Hypertext Preprocessor, that formerly worked for Personal Home Pages. It is an open-source, object-oriented, and server-side scripting language that primarily focuses on web development tools. It creates web servers and can be executed in the browser as well as through the command line. It uses Zend Engine which is a popular implementation for regular use.

PHP has endured through the testing times and has come out with a sustainable performance. It has a consistently increasing number of users due to its extraordinary characteristics. Some of these are:

  1. Supports major operating systems like Linux, macOS, and Windows. 
  2. Highly compatible with primary web servers and cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure and AWS
  3. It is a server-side scripting language and creates a personalized interface for each user
  4. Comfortable with HTML and can interchanged with it
  5. Can easily connect with all databases like MongoDB, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and much more
  6. Compatible for most of the web technologies from cloud to HTML integration.

Companies using PHP

  1. Facebook
  2. Wikipedia
  3. WordPress
  4. Tumblr
  5. Slack
  6. Etsy
  7. Mailchimp
  8. DailyMotion
  9. Flickr
  10. Spotify

Pros and Cons of PHP?

Pros of PHP

  1. Has a lot of in-built security features
  2. Can regularly update new features and enhance its performance
  3. Strong support for CMSes
  4. Empowers web development frameworks, operating systems, web servers, and hosting platforms
  5. Diverse range of web development tools and libraries
  6. Needs less maintenance as it supports Model-view-controller architecture and simplifies web application building.
Pros and Cons Of PHP

Cons of PHP

  1. Not ideal for real-time applications and parallel programming
  2. Less efficient and dynamic as compared to other languages like C++ or Java
  3. Outdated methodology with libraries that cannot compete with new libraries that are powered by machine learning
  4. Security glitches due to the low entry barriers for new programmers thereby posing potential vulnerabilities

Node.js Vs PHP - Detailed Comparison

So far you the insights about the basic usage of both the technologies and their features. Let us check them and compare them with other specific parameters. With this, you can further get a clear understanding to decide which application development is best suitable for your project.

Similarities

Language Interpretation

Interpreted language does not require an earlier compiling of a program into the machine language. The implementations get executed directly. Both the backend technologies first allow development on the specific implementation page with no interruptions in the process. It reduces program size, sets dynamic typing, and performs debugging seamlessly.

Cross-platform Compatibility

The population is becoming more tech-savvy and digitalized. Business owners choose a flexible cross-platform tech stack that can fulfill the needs of their target audience. Both PHP and Node.js are cross-platform independent technologies that operate on Linux, Windows, and macOS. Node.js contains several Docker images for the Docker Hub. PHP runs directly through the command line.

Application Type

Both Node.js and PHP run on a server and can manage the routed requests. You can overlap them for performing static content, dynamic web pages, and data requests. Node web sockets are a bit conventional and PHP introduces web socket servers. PHP uses Ratchet and Node.js socket.io. Both the models serve streams where Node has Stream API and PHP has custom codes.

Services

Both can serve web requests and are efficient in serving web sockets. They can easily manage diverse web content and can provide interactive user-friendly interfaces.

Extensibility

Both backend technologies are open-source and are rich with a dynamic ecosystem of add-ons and possibilities of boundary expansions. You can also alter the code according to the need and make it according to the project requirement.

In-depth Comparison Between Node.js and PHP

Popularity

Around 80% of websites are built with PHP while Node.js is used only for 1-2% of websites. On the contrary, from the viewpoint of the rising number of users, Node.js is growing with great consistency. However, PHP still has a grip over the major chunk of the market. 

In-depth Comparison Between Node.js and PHP
Source – Google Trends

Looking in terms of gaining popularity, Node.js is the most popular framework among developers. 47.12% of developers prefer Node.js for building projects.  The in-depth categorization talks about 46.31% of core professionals using Node.js and 52.86% of learning developers prefer it for building web applications. To summarize, both tech stacks are gaining equal importance in the market and are rising quickly.

Performance

Node.js is asynchronous and uses JavaScript V8 Engine. It provides quick start-up time and has outstanding speed. Node.js is event-driven and avoids blocking requests by executing them concurrently. When the concurrency of Node.js and JavaScript is combined, it delivers the most suitable environment for high-performance application development.

PHP is quite known to the market and has a unique way of handling requests. It is comparatively slower and its synchronous code execution procedure blocks the process if the executions are not completed. This leads to extended loading time with no concurrency. When it gets linked with HHVM, PHP performance gets a great boost.

Best Option: Node.js

Learning Curve

Node.js is the best choice for those who are well acquainted with JavaScript. Developers who are new to JavaScript may find Node.js complicated initially. In that case, they must first learn JavaScript. Hence, Node.js has a steeper learning curve.

PHP language is simple to learn and needs developers who know CSS and HTML. The learning curve becomes steeper when they have to deal with multiple technologies at the same time.

Best Option: PHP

Development Kit

While comparing both tech stacks, they are equally well equipped with a wide range of IDEs, validators, editors, debuggers, and other such tools. Node.js has a tool called NPM or Node Package Manager that permits Node.js developers to handle modules and dependencies.

PHP contains a package manager that has Composer – helping to manage modules and dependencies. The basic difference here is that NPM is built while Composer needs to be built on your own. 

Concurrency

When you build a basic project, speed is very important for processing and execution. The majority of technologies are good in speed except when it comes to performing costly functions that need special algorithms and compilers or languages. 

With Node.js you get a high-speed execution rate due to its lightweight, event-driven, efficient, and non-blocking I/O model. It relies on three programming ‘wizards’ called: Async, Concurrency, and Parallelism programming. 

Node.js event loop
Node.js event loop (source – Cloudinary)

The asynchronous design style helps Node.js perform several functions together while running an application. The event systems of Node.js enable it to function more feasible and faster and the server responds to the previous API request. 

Node.js async function
Node.js async function (source – RisingStack)

While in PHP, there is a slower asynchronous code implementation. Hence each module function is executed as per the indicated order in the code. A query that fails to perform will hamper the entire process to run further until a concurrent query gets resolved. However, PHP is consistent in terms of delivering better performance and executing accurate programs irrespective of the speed. Paired with the HHVM Virtual Machine, it gets enhanced performance.

Best Option: Node.js

Syntax

PHP syntax enables backward compatibility ensuring smooth movement of your code from the older versions to the new versions. But while doing this, several other functions may get hampered as it allows the single most function to perform in multiple ways. 

With Javascript, there are numerous tendencies involved that can attract developers including lightweight Syntax. Although it has faced several criticisms, math libraries can easily solve such problems. The topmost benefit of Node.js remains here as Syntax is very simple to learn and you need not learn a completely different language. The only thing is you must be familiar with JavaScript language. 

Best Option: Node.js

Database

Node.js performs with MongoDB, Couch DB, and other NoSQL databases. It also functions with graph databases like Neo4j. Node.js can interact with SQL databases although developers’ first choice remains the NoSQL database. This is because the built-in JSON support allows Node.js to work better with NoSQL databases.

PHP is used in RDBMS or relational database management systems like MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MS SQL. MySQL is used in the majority of PHP websites although it is a part of the renowned open-source stack LAMP. Hence, Node.js is the best option if you want to scale your application.

Best Option: Node.js

Security

We all know that no programming language has a permanent security solution to avoid hacking and cyberattacks. However, building a robust system that makes the application immune to the majority of security attacks is worthwhile.

Node.js encounters vulnerabilities like machine-in-the-middle attacks, code injection, and advanced persistent threats. It faces security issues like XSS attacks, Cross-site request forgery, data leaks, and HTTP reading header issues.

A node.js machine-in-the-middle attack
A node.js machine-in-the-middle attack (source – Medium)

Node.js also offers a solution. It performs various security practices with authentication tools like Firebase, OWASP Dependency Check, and Acutinex for handling problems with ease, reducing vulnerability, and creating a secure system. 

PHP also faces security issues like SQL injection attacks, session hijacking, XSS (cross-site scripting), directory traversal, and more. To prevent harm, it makes paths to stand tall against these issues. The truth is if you write the code right, you will see your program becoming as secure as it is as compared to other programming languages. The problem may come if you are new to coding while building an app or a website. 

To ensure safety and security issues for PHP, think via a secured design. For that, you can encrypt and decrypt a string in PHP while using the OpenSSL function extension called Cryptography. Also, you can implement LBS (Language based security) to strengthen the security of your apps.

Best Option: Node.js

Modules and Extensibility

Modules are program components serving multiple functions related to each other. Together they can build a specific program. With modules, you can extend the technology capabilities.

In Node.js, these modules are isolated units of code interfacing with external applications as per their single capacity. Either the modules are single files or they are in groups with a lot of folders or files. Modules can be reused and can be broken down into digestible bits if become problematic. 

Node.js npm modules
Node.js npm modules (source – medium)

PHP has three types of modules namely bundled extensions, core extensions, and entirely external extensions. Bundled extensions are defaulted with the PHP installation. The entirely external extensions do not come with core PHP or a specific package. Most PHP extension modules are written in C programming language. With PHP, you can compile them to become either static loading or dynamic loading. 

With PHP you get a vibrant collection of extension modules providing a great deal of extensibility. 

Best Option: PHP

Scalability

Node.js performs better in terms of achieving scalability as compared to PHP. PHP is easy to learn but is very difficult to master. And that is why developers find it difficult to build complex PHP applications. Node.js is comparatively user-friendly and needs a clear understanding of JavaScript.

Best Option: Node.js

Hosting

Both are popular and prominent global hosting providers and are equally reliable. Mostly, hosting prices are decided based on the availability of these hosting companies. So before you pick up any one of the hosting plans out of the two above, make sure you prioritize speed performance and the ability to maintain tighter security. 

Ecosystem

Open source platform community always enriches the entire ecosystem. Made of users and enthusiasts who love exploring popular technologies provides numerous libraries, premade projects, frameworks, resources, and support to fresh learners. 

Node.js has an active online community that has provided a pool of online materials and has answered several queries from developers. Some popular groups are Google Groups, GitHub, and IRC.

The Node.js ecosystem