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PHP vs JavaScript: Choosing The Right Technology For Your Project

Mar 18, 20212 min read

Robert Krajewski

Co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, mentor and startup advisor.

php vs javascript

The choice between PHP and JavaScript is vital. It is this pick that will influence all the life path of your project. Hence, it is crucial to be well-aware in the topic under question in this article.


Why should you trust us?


As a tech talent marketplace, we continue to compare popular technologies such as Python vs Javascript, PHP vs Ruby on Rails, Python vs PHP, and even React Native vs Swift


Today we'll take a look at the difference between PHP vs JavaScript, as well as their similarities.


PHP and JS are the most widespread languages for web development. Thus, people often wonder which one is better. As with all other technologies, there is no exact answer here. In this blog post, we'll show you why.

What is PHP?

PHP is a popular scripting language that is primarily used in the field of web development. If you are new to programming, you might ask - is this not a "programming language"? This is actually part of the "scripting," which means that PHP allows you to automate certain specific processes, thereby saving a lot of time and avoiding manual programming.


PHP was created in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf. Since then, it has received many different updates and is now considered one of the most successful programming languages ​​in the field of web development. PHP developers underline several core features of the technology - let's quickly go over them.


What is PHP used for? 


Web development with PHP includes activities such as managing cookies, collecting information from web pages, and turning static websites into dynamics.


Building dynamic PHP websites is one of the uses for this scripting language. Sometimes it is enough to combine HTML and CSS to create static sites that rarely change. However, PHP can provide an additional dynamic effect. However, dynamic elements can also be implemented with JavaScript Node.js. Thus, a dilemma arises: which scripting language is more appropriate?


Another important aspect of using PHP is building dynamic PHP websites using the MySQL system. PHP works with plenty of databases, but the most popular is MySQL. 


How does it work? 


Well, you should use PHP to connect to the database and present content in HTML pages.


Takeaway: PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. It is a programming language embedded in HTML that does all sorts of things like creating custom web content, sending and receiving cookies, evaluating form data sent from the browser, etc. It is integrated with a number of popular databases—for example, PostgreSQL, Oracle, Sybase, SQL, and MySQL. It also supports major protocols like IMAP, POP3, and LDAP.


PHP can process forms, save data to a file, return data to the user, collect data from files, etc.


Example: Let's say a website where the user views the order status after logging in. When coding PHP, you send a query to the database, which then outputs specific information about the user based on what information is in the database.


Now that you've got a little familiar with the general idea of ​​a scripting language and know what PHP is used for let's move on to JavaScript.

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript (or sometimes just JS) is very similar to PHP in the sense that it is also a scripting language that automates specific processes. JS was created in 1995 (one year younger than PHP) by Brendan Eich. 


JavaScript is a scripting language heavily involved in web development that turns static websites into dynamics. You can add JavaScript code directly to your HTML document using <script> tags. Another option is to create a separate .js file and link to that external file in your HTML document.


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What is JavaScript used for? 


JavaScript developers note that its web development capabilities allow websites to perform actions such as refreshing specific parts of a page without reloading the entire website, displaying pop-up messages, or introducing animations into 2D or 3D graphics. Overall, the main impact is on client-side development, but JavaScript can now perform actions on the server-side as well.


Node.js is a runtime that allows to run JavaScript code on the server. It is the main contender when discussing PHP vs JavaScript. The browsers then download the results and present them in web applications. Server-Side JavaScript Web Development (Node.js) includes the Google 8V JavaScript engine, a single-threaded non-blocking event loop, and a low-level I/O API.


With an event loop, Node.js provides more efficient request management. For example, while the file system is reading a file, Node.js works on other requests. After the system reads the file, it sends it to the browser. In other words, while Node.js is waiting for one job to complete, it moves on to another.


Takeaway: JavaScript is for building networked applications. With JavaScript, web pages will never be static HTML and allow the program to interact with the user, control the browser, and dynamically generate HTML content. The advantage of JavaScript is that it interacts less with the server, which allows you to validate user input before submitting the page, which means less load on your server and less server traffic. JavaScript allows you to get instant feedback from your visitors.


Example: When you hover over a menu tab on a web page, the dropdown effect is performed using JavaScript.

Why should we compare them?

When comparing the two, it is important to start by defining that the main JavaScript vs PHP difference is that JavaScript is primarily a front-end language and PHP is strictly server-side.


It is unfair to compare one backend language to another for web front end development. However, since the release of Node.js, JavaScript has become capable of serving both client-side and server-side targets. Thus, it becomes possible to draw some conclusions for people considering which language to choose.


There are many different aspects that good programming languages have. This is usually a mixture of all the criteria. They help you decide whether to use the language or not. However, there are certain criteria that are “must-haves” - without them, the programming language will either be very difficult to learn or not cost at all.


In order to compare PHP vs JavaScript for web development, I chose the next areas:

  • Speed of coding/easiness of coding
  • Performance
  • Universality
  • Documentation
  • Popularity
  • Community
  • Talent pool
  • Easiness to learn
  • Security
  • Cost of development

We'll take a close look at each of the individual points separately, briefly describing how the two programming languages relate to each point. In the end, we'll see if there is a clearly superior scripting language in the PHP vs JavaScript debate.

JavaScript vs PHP: speed of coding/easiness of coding

PHP is easier to code and use. This is because PHP has over 1000 built-in functions that you can use to create specific tasks. The list of functions is readily available online. You can also create your own functions for giving commands. 


JavaScript is a bit tricky because it has additional functionality like event queues, HTTP requests, syntax, operators, and many more.


Also, unlike other languages, JavaScript is asynchronous.


Winner: PHP

JavaScript vs PHP: performance

JavaScript is defined by an event-driven, single-threaded, non-blocking I/O model. This model is provided by event looping and node clustering.


The asynchronous nature of Node.js allows it to execute all of the code at the same time without waiting for some functions to complete. This makes JavaScript the best solution for low-latency applications such as streaming platforms. Node.js is further accelerated by the V8 engine, persistent server connectivity, and callback functions.


As for PHP, it is characterized by a multi-threaded execution model with blocking I/O. Unlike JavaScript, PHP is synchronous. The second line of PHP code cannot be executed until the first is executed, which makes it much slower than JavaScript.


While PHP is undeniably slower in speed, some say it is more stable than JavaScript. However, this advantage is rather controversial and not 100% proven.


The stability and reliability of both PHP and JS are open to interpretation. But thanks to its outstanding speed, the latter wins.


Winner: JavaScript

PHP vs JavaScript: universality

JavaScript is cross-platform, just like PHP. Both PHP and JavaScript are primarily intended for web application development, although both can be used for mobile application development.


The biggest advantage of JavaScript over PHP is that JavaScript is a full-stack development language. Most comparisons between JS and PHP emphasize that JavaScript is only an interface, but this is simply not right. You can develop a whole web or mobile application without any other technologies other than JavaScript.


PHP is only an internal development language. 


To develop a web application using this technology stack, a software developer must know four different syntax systems, not talking about HTML and CSS. Switching between languages ​​is inconvenient and inefficient and also makes the learning process very difficult.


JavaScript is usable on both the frontend and backend, while PHP can be used only to build server-side code. JavaScript development is full stack development, which is its biggest advantage.


Winner: JavaScript

PHP vs JavaScript: documentation

Less pleasant news for those new to PHP or JavaScript is that the official documentation for both languages is not very user-friendly. It is written for experienced developers, not beginners.


You can check the documentation for each language here:

JavaScript teacher Chris Ferdinandi laments the lack of good JavaScript documentation, saying that this was one of the reasons it took him so long to master the language.


At the same time, the documentation for both ones is quite sufficient. Thus, you can always find answers to questions raised while coding. Of course, in case you are experienced enough to understand what is written there.


Verdict: Draw

PHP vs JavaScript: popularity

The w3tech.com report shows the percentage of websites built using PHP and JavaScript technologies.


The graph shows that about 79% of all websites use PHP as their server-side programming language, while only 1.2% of websites use JavaScript as their server-side language. Likewise, 77% of all websites in the top 1,000,000 use PHP.


However, when considering the use of a client-side scripting language for websites, JavaScript outperforms other languages. A technology survey from W3techs.com says JavaScript is the leading client-side language and is used by 97.1% of all sites.


As the Google Trends data suggests, since 2004, PHP was a bit more popular search query than JavaScript until December 2013. Since that time, JS beats its opponent in this field.


Referring to Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020, JS is the most popular technology, with 67.7% versus 26.2% that PHP has.



Each language has its own implementation area; therefore, you should choose one based on its tech characteristics, not only popularity.


Verdict: Draw

PHP vs JavaScript: community

According to stackshare.io, the main reasons developers love working with JavaScript are its versatility ("Can be used in both front-end and backend"), popularity ("It's everywhere"), and extensibility ("There are many great frameworks ").


JavaScript is used by Netflix, LinkedIn, Instagram, eBay, Trello, Uber, Airbnb, NASA, and Medium.


JavaScript is the most popular language on GitHub, accounting for over 18% of pull requests.


Talking about PHP, stackshare.io shows that the most beloved benefits of PHP are its large community, open-source, and easy deployment.


PHP is used by companies such as Facebook, Lyft, Wikipedia, Slack, Tumblr, and 9 GAG.


Its code is open source, which makes it more flexible and customizable.


PHP only ranks eighth on GitHub, with pull requests of around 5%.


Both languages ​​have huge support communities. Both are popular with major tech giants - both PHP and JavaScript are earning points.


Verdict: Draw

PHP vs JavaScript: talent pool

Another area where PHP and JavaScript can’t beat each other is that developers for both languages are in high demand.


Developers using JavaScript and PHP also get good pay.


In the United States, they earn an average of about $80,000 a year.


PHP vs JavaScript- Choosing The Right Technology For Your Project - php developer salary

Source: PHP Developer Salaries, Glassdoor.com


PHP vs JavaScript- Choosing The Right Technology For Your Project - js developer salary

Source: JavaScript Developer Salaries, Glassdoor.com


Job Trends on Indeed.com show millions of jobs searched in JavaScript and PHP from thousands of job sites. This shows a relatively upward and downward trend in the number of jobs for both languages in successive years.


As per Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020, JS is one of the most loved technologies, with 58.3% against 37.3% that PHP has.

PHP vs JavaScript: easiness to learn

Getting started with PHP is much easier than JavaScript. Setting up a server is as easy as creating a single .php file, writing multiple lines of code enclosed in <? php?>, and enter the URL in the browser tab.


Also, PHP features such as incompatible functions, or return values ​​are easier to understand and master than JavaScript and some JS frameworks.


Setting up JavaScript, namely Node.js, for the back end, is not that difficult. But this is more complicated than PHP. A beginner JS developer needs more knowledge than a beginner PHP developer.


However, the effort you put into discovering JavaScript pays off completely. Since JavaScript is more versatile than PHP, the learning effort is much more rewarding.


PHP wins for its ease of learning, and aspiring developers will appreciate it.


Winner: PHP

PHP vs JavaScript: security

PHP is a little bit more secure than JavaScript because PHP code is run exclusively on the server.. JavaScript code is vulnerable and subject to security risks, especially when it’s run on the client side. Both languages are vulnerable to some forms of attacks, e.g. SQL Injection, without proper countermeasures (usually provided by robust frameworks).


You can secure your JavaScript code with Security Analyzer tools and use development best practices.


Winner: PHP

PHP vs JavaScript: cost of development

PHP is developed and maintained by a large community. The technology has a good support base. All you need to get started with PHP is a PHP analyzer, a web server (like Apache), and a web browser like Google Chrome. 


Javascript is an ECMAScript implementation, and ECMAScript is an open standard.


In addition, as we mentioned above, the costs for hiring the related developer are also equal. So, the total dev cost would be the same for both languages.


Verdict: Draw


Find these sentences too long? Here is a quick summary of all of the above:


PHP vs JavaScript Choosing The Right Technology For Your Project - comparison table

Main pros and cons

PHP pros

I must say that most of the positive aspects of PHP are already known to programmers. Here is a list of the benefits that make it widely applicable in web development:

  • Development with PHP offers many possibilities. With the proper level of proficiency, using the template engine, you can create not only scripts for web applications but also full-fledged programs. There are solutions that allow you to create mobile applications in PHP;
  • Learning PHP doesn't take much time. This is both a plus and a minus. After all, solid knowledge requires practice, but more on that later;
  • Cross-platform. PHP can run on any operating system, including unixoids;
  • Web server support. It's hard to find one that doesn't work with PHP;
  • Free distribution. PHP might not have been as popular for building web applications if it weren't free, like most tools for working with it. Analogs that can basically do the same job tend to be more expensive;
  • Has enough randomness for web development. Of course, basic languages ​​such as the C family are faster, but this is not critical for the web;
  • Availability of training materials. Everyone knows about PHP's "bugs" only because development is mainly carried out with its help. Try Google for the disadvantages of Virtual Reality Modeling Language. It will be difficult because few people know it. But everyone has already learned the basis of the shortcomings of the "preprocessor" by heart because of the wide use of the language. That is why, if something does not work out for you, you can always look into a search engine: most likely, someone has already encountered your problem;
  • Continuous development. The fact that today so much is known about the template engine means only one thing: sooner or later, they will cope with the shortcomings.

PHP cons

Despite its widespread use in the field of creating sites and web applications, the "preprocessor" does have drawbacks. But if some see them as reasons not to learn the language, then others see a warning that should be taken as a guide. Among the problems:

  • Narrow profile. If you've learned how to develop with PHP, then you have one road - to the web. Although the possibilities are expanded by various implementations, it is still "sharpened" for programming for the Internet;
  • Safety. PHP has system-level and web-application-level security features. But, again, widespread use has played a cruel joke: holes in PHP are found faster than developers have time to close them. PHP 7 has solved many problems, but the attacker is always ahead. Due to the fact that the masses know the "preprocessor," it is difficult to predict everything;
  • Inconsistencies in the code. When the template engine was first created, all software was developed using C. Accordingly, a lot of syntax from it was applied in the language. At the same time, today's audience is more Java focused. As a result, the code is full of various remnants from different languages. And they can all even be concentrated in one code expression.

But the root of all the problems that PHP is associated with are not caused by the templating engine itself, but rather by the surrounding circumstances. The language itself is perfectly integrated into the development of modern web applications. And this situation has persisted for many years. Since 1998, web development with PHP has been carried out in 8 cases out of 10. There are not so many such long-livers in programming: trends change very quickly.


Don't forget that the "preprocessor" is designed for a specific purpose: web development. And if a young developer makes mistakes in it, it doesn't really matter. Moreover, people who have gained a foundation in PHP are much more willing to develop further than those who have broken off enthusiasm about the complexity of languages ​​such as Java.

JavaScript pros

Javascript is popular not by accident but due to its undoubted advantages.

  • Indispensable for web development. The script is supported by all popular browsers; full integration with page layout (HTML + CSS) and server-side (backend).
  • Speed ​​of work and productivity. Javascript allows partial processing of web pages on the user's computers without requests to the server. This saves time and traffic and reduces server load.
  • Powerful infrastructure (ecosystem). For the first 10 years, this was not even in sight. Then the number of ready-made solutions in the public domain increased so much that working with Javascript and its frameworks became a pleasure.
  • Simplicity and rationality of use. A simple problem can be solved in 5 minutes, no extra work to do. For complex tasks, there are solution options. You can choose the best one, adapt.
  • The convenience of user interfaces. Filling out forms, choosing actions, activating buttons, validating inputs, responding to mouse hovers/clicks, etc. This provides an amazing level of usability.
  • Ease of learning. Perhaps this is a matter of habit. At first, the code may seem complicated, but you quickly get used to its syntax and logic. Displaying actions adds a tangible amount of enthusiasm.


Like any programming language, Javascript has some disadvantages (limitations).

  • Lax typification and free interpretation. The language ignores obvious inconsistencies. There are different interpretations of the data. There is no possibility of early detection of errors. All shortcomings are revealed already at the stage of work.
  • No support for remote access. Therefore, the language cannot be used for network applications. For this, Javascript has not even considered a complete programming language.
  • Accessibility to intruders. It is easiest to embed a piece of malicious code into a free scripting language that could harm the user. Hope only for antivirus and firewall.

It should be noted that the Javascript user community is actively improving the language, eliminating many of the shortcomings. The bottlenecks are getting smaller. Browsers are constantly improving their work with JS. The release of HTML 5 gave a new impetus to the expansion of scripting capabilities.

When to use PHP vs JavaScript

What is PHP good for?

Use PHP as your backend language if you are going to use the LAMP solution stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP).


PHP also works fine with content management systems like WordPress and Drupal.


Best examples:

  1. Paytm. An Indian online payment platform that supports smartphones running iOS, Android, Windows. Paytm also uses PHP server-side technology. The company has over 300 million registered users and over 80 million active users—the site processes over 5 million transactions per day.
  2. Flipkart. One of the leading online retailers in India selling mobile phones, electronics, home appliances, and other products. The company owns about 43 percent of the country's e-commerce market share. The number of registered users has already surpassed the 100 million mark. Flipkart uses several languages ​​for backend development - PHP, Java, and others.
  3. Tumblr. A social network that helps users share their ideas and photos. There are over 435 million different blogs registered on Tumblr, and about 550 million users visit the site every month. PHP is used for server-side development.

What is JavaScript good for?

JS is preferred when using the MEAN solution stack (MongoDB, Express.js, Angular.js, and Node.js).


JS works best with dynamic single-page applications.


Best examples:

  1. Hello Monday. The website of the Hello Monday creative agency has undergone significant changes. The developers of the company have done a great job. They managed to make the interface user-friendly.

Now the site contains examples of orders already completed by the agency - each project has its own page, which describes its history, which gives the user a deeper understanding of what Hello Monday is doing.

“We were trying to move away from the boilerplate of what a creative agency website should look like,”

says Katie Hertel, project lead for the Hello Monday web page redesign. 


The site is very attractive and responsive, which is facilitated by the organization of projects on the main page: it is automatically supplemented with new agency work when scrolling down.


2. Meteor. It is a massively multiplayer online game written in JavaScript using the HTML5 canvas element. It was created by Arjen de Wise and Philidor Weise and designed by Arthur van Hoog. The main task of the user in the game is to control the fall of meteorites, getting points for the destruction left by him.


The game uses a Node.js server to manage communication between desktop and mobile devices using WebSockets.


Weise emphasizes that the already existing game libraries were not used in the development of Multeor.


3. Here is Today. Here in this project, JavaScript was used to create animations. The creator of the resource, designer Luc Twyman, explains his idea this way:

“I wanted to create something that would give everyone a sense of the time scale. Here is Today helps you understand how vast the history of the universe is."

Twyman notes that from the very beginning, he decided to abandon the standard measurement values ​​- pixels, and described his own based on the size of the screen. This was done to ensure that the site looks the same on all devices.


This is the second JavaScript project created by the designer, and in it, he used elements that he did not use in the previous one. However, Twyman finds in the language many similarities with other high-level programming languages, besides, according to him, JavaScript has rather detailed documentation, and a large number of examples have been disassembled on the Internet (including on thematic forms).


We have provided you with a detailed comparison between PHP and JavaScript. While PHP is easier to learn, it is capable of building complete websites. On the other hand, we have more complex JavaScript, but it is one of the most popular languages.


For front-end development, you should definitely choose JavaScript as PHP is only for server-side development. 


However, when it comes to deciding between JavaScript and PHP from a Node.js perspective, the discussion gets more complicated.


PHP may be slower than Node.js, but the PHP user community is larger, which means there are more resources and tutorials to learn from. In addition, PHP offers many frameworks, such as Laravel, Symfony, Zend, and others that make web development even more efficient. Although Node.js also offers many frameworks and resources, the support system is not yet mature enough.


One final note on this topic is that PHP is the primary programming language for server-side web development. We suggest using PHP and JavaScript together for the best results and easier management.


Not sure what technology to choose? Consult your product with us. We can provide you with technical consultancy and the ability to hire top web developers skilled in both technologies, matched with your product and your industry.

Robert Krajewski

Robert is a co-founder of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, who with passion spreads digital revolution all around the internet. Mentor and advisor at startup accelerators. Loves to learn and discover new business models.

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