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PHP vs Java – The Best Choice For Web Development

Mar 1, 20215 min read

Dawid Karczewski

Senior full stack developer and CTO at Ideamotive.

The debate about the best programming language seems to never end. Every developer has their point of view and arguments. While some fiercely defend one language, others find only flaws in it.


Therefore, we are not going to give a certain answer about what is the best programming language to learn and use for web programming. But we will give all the resources and insights possible so that you can decide what suits you and your project the best. 


We have already compared Java vs Kotlin and PHP vs Ruby. In this article, we concentrated on the ultimate battle: Java vs PHP. We will discuss:

  • What Java Is?
  • What PHP Is?
  • Why Are They Compared?
  • Comparison Areas
  • Pros and Cons of Both Languages
  • When to Use Java and When Is PHP Better?

Stay tuned and find out whether Java or PHP is better for you.

What Is Java?

Java is a general-purpose, class-based, cross-platform programming language. Java was introduced in 1995 by Sun Microsystems. The programming language has been around for more than 20 years and is still considered to be one of the most popular ones. 


Due to its logic of “Write Once, Run Anywhere”, programmers can write a code once and it will work on every platform that is compatible with Java, including computers and smartphones. It is explained by the fact that Java is a high-level language with more complicated processes. Java compiler converts code into bytecode and afterward, Java Virtual Machine converts it for the device it runs on. 


Java is widely used by such big companies as Google, eBay, Amazon, Uber, Netflix, Instagram, etc. 

What is PHP?

PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor (originally Personal Home Page) and is an open-source, server-side, general-purpose scripting language that can be embedded in HTML. It was introduced in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf but was quite different from what it looks like now.


PHP was significant in the creation of content management systems WordPress, Joomla, Drupa all use PHP. 


PHP is an interpreted language and the interpretation is done only once. It also means that PHP works only on the services that have PHP installed. Luckily, many systems do support the scripting language. 


PHP is used by Facebook, Slack, Wikipedia, Tumblr, Etsy, etc.

Why Should We Compare Them?

Web development is flourishing today. More and more web sites and web applications are created daily. Only in 5 years, the number of websites grew from 968,9 million in 2014 to 1,72 billion in 2019. Since the pandemic started, many businesses moved online as well. More web applications are created to fulfill the duties that people had to do manually in the office but now they can not. 


Both Java and PHP languages are widely used in web development. Due to the fact that a developer cannot learn all the languages or they need to start with at least one, it makes sense to look at all the aspects and make a decision. 


Java and PHP have some similarities as well. For example, they are both open-source so they are available to the public. The languages are object-oriented and have a similar syntax. At the same time, they are different and are tailored for different purposes. 

PHP and Java Comparison

That is the part when we finally get to discover the differences between PHP and Java that make developers all around the world debate.


If you have more important tasks to do, here is the TL;DR table for you to make the PHP vs Java decision faster.


PHP vs Java: Speed of Coding 

Java has different threads helping to manage and process the sequences of instructions quickly and efficiently. However, PHP is still a winner in the PHP vs Java speed of coding comparison battle as its latest versions have significantly speeded up the coding process, reducing memory consumption at the same time. So coding the same software on PHP would take less time than on Java.


Verdict: PHP

PHP vs Java: Performance

When it comes to the PHP vs Java performance comparison, Java is the winner. Java is precompiled, and PHP needs time to comply with bytecode on each request. The optimization work in both Java and PHP has been done but Java seems to put more work into that. The latest versions of PHP optimize the writing but they also reduce memory consumption. However, both languages help developers to create fast and high-performing software.  


Verdict: Java

PHP vs Java: Stability

Java is considered to be more stable than PHP. It requires a longer code which takes time. At the same time, a well-written longer code becomes a more stable application with fewer crashes. It has become the reason why banks and fintech brands pick Java without any further considerations. 


Verdict: Java

PHP vs Java: Documentation

Both Java and PHP have been around for a long time, so there is an extensive amount of documentation available for both languages.


The official Java documentation can be found on Oracle. The language specifications are described in all the complexity, so you will easily find all the needed information.


Although PHP has been around since 1995, so its documentation might appear to be partially outdated, riddled, and inconsistent.


Verdict: Java

PHP vs Java: Popularity

The question of popularity in the battle Java vs PHP has an easy answer that relies on the data: Java is in more demand and is beloved by developers. 

According to GitHub and Google trends, more programmers want to learn Java (19,1%) than PHP (6,2%) among other languages. 


CodingDojo has done their research to find out what is the most demanded language out there and found out that Java ranked as the most demanded language with more hire requests while PHP ended up having 7th place. 


As for what languages developers love to work with, 44,1% of professionals said that they would like to continue working with Java while only 37,3% were keen on working with PHP.


Verdict: Java


PHP vs Java: Talent Pool

According to the Stack Overflow Development Survey, more professionals use Java (38,4%) than PHP (25,8%).


Verdict: Java

PHP vs Java: Easiness to Learn

Both PHP and Java are among the easiest languages to learn. The debate over what is easier is still open though: it depends on your previous knowledge and skills. While some feel like Java’s library is too deep, others point out that the syntax of Java is simpler than PHP and is closer to the English language. 


Verdict: Draw

PHP vs Java: Security

Security is very important, considering all the recent policies and regulations on data protection. Security plays a key role in any company but is even more important for public organizations. So let's find out who wins the Java vs PHP security battle. 


Java is considered to be a more secure language, compared to PHP. It has more built-in security features while PHP developers have to opt for other frameworks. However, in terms of security, Java works better for complex projects because it can block some features in low-level programming to protect the PC.


Verdict: Java

PHP vs Java: Cost of Development

Clearly, any company would like to launch a product at the minimum cost. If you consider costs as your main priority, PHP is the best option. It takes less time to code in that language and the coding is quite cheap.


Verdict: PHP

Main Pros and Cons of Java and PHP

For a better understanding of Java and PHP, it is better to look at both languages separately. Let’s discover the main pros and cons of both technologies so that you can understand when some disadvantages are such a big no for you that further comparison does not make sense. 


When Java and PHP Are Used?

As we have mentioned before, there are no better or worse languages but more and less suitable for different purposes. Overall, Java is used for enterprise, more complicated projects while PHP is widely popular in startups and less complex projects.


Yet, let’s take a look at the most common usage examples of each language.

What Is Java Used For?

Java is a really general-purpose language that has many use cases in the development world. Companies use Java when they need to develop:

  • Android applications 
  • Web applications (Gmail, Google Sheets, online forms, shopping carts)
  • Enterprise applications (used by banks, schools, governments, charities, etc. Such enterprises as Pinterest, TripAdvisor, Spotify use Java)
  • Web servers (Apache Tomcat, Rimfaxe Web Server (RWS) Apache HTTP server, Resin, Adobe JRun)
  • Software tools (Eclipse, IntelliJ Idea, NetBeans IDE)

What Is PHP Used for?

PHP was initially used for creating dynamic web pages but its field of use is much bigger now (however, not as big as Java’s). PHP is used for the development of:

  • websites (Yahoo, Flickr, iStock Photo, MailChimp)
  • eCommerce apps (OpenCart, ZenCart, UberCart)
  • Scripting (DevOps tools, automation)

Bottom Line 

To say who is the actual winner in this PHP vs Java comparison is not only hard but is irrational. Java and PHP are used for different purposes and if a developer is talented enough, they will rock any project. 


However, if you are not sure what language to use for your project, contact us! We provide consultations on your specific product and help to find talented professionals in any programming language. 

Dawid Karczewski

Dawid is a full stack developer experienced in creating Ruby on Rails and React Native apps from naught to implementation. Technological superhero, delivering amazing solutions for our clients and helping them grow.

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