PHP vs Python: Comprehensive Comparison for Server-Side Development in 2023
Server-side programming languages form the backbone of web development. With so many options available today, choosing the right language for your project can be tricky. PHP and Python are two of the most capable and popular languages for server-side web development.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare PHP vs Python across a variety of factors like usage, performance, frameworks, scalability, job market, and more. We’ll look at key stats and trends. By the end, you’ll have the insights needed to decide which language may be better suited for your needs in 2023 and beyond.
PHP vs Python
First, let’s briefly introduce the two languages.
PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is an open-source scripting language designed specifically for web development. It powers a staggering 76% of all websites whose server-side language is known, including leading sites like Facebook and Wikipedia.
Created in 1995, PHP has grown to become the most popular backend language. Its flexibility, simplicity, and tight focus on the web make it a preferred choice for many web application development companies.
Python, first released in 1991, is a general-purpose high-level programming language. It powers around 3% of all websites, including sites like Instagram and Spotify.
While not only focused on web development, Python’s simple and readable syntax has made it a popular choice for larger and more complex web apps. Its versatility and large ecosystem of libraries have enabled it to excel in data science, machine learning, and other domains too.
Now that we have a quick intro to PHP and Python, let’s explore them in-depth across various factors.
Popularity and Usage
PHP and Python have taken different trajectories in terms of popularity and usage for the web.
PHP’s Dominance for Server-Side Web Development
PHP has been the backbone of web development for decades. A few key stats about its popularity:
- PHP powers a staggering 76% of all websites whose server-side programming language is known. This dominance reflects its long history and specialized focus on the web.
- It powers 74.4% of the top 1 million websites. This includes leading sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, and WordPress.
- PHP has over 7 million developers worldwide and its ecosystem keeps growing.
Such ubiquity for server-side web development stems from PHP’s simplicity and orientation for the web. Its support for shared hosting environments and integration with popular databases like MySQL have sealed the deal.
Python’s Rising Adoption
Python may not rival PHP’s sheer dominance, but it has rapidly emerged as a rock-solid backend choice:
- Python powers around 3% of all websites whose server-side language is known.
- It powers 3.9% of the top 1 million websites, including Instagram and Spotify.
- With over 12 million developers, Python has a thriving and growing community.
Python’s flexibility has enabled it to find a niche in web development. Its clean syntax and readability make Python effective for complex web applications with lots of code. The rise of Python-based web frameworks like Django has furthered its adoption.
Web Development Use Cases
- PHP is more popular for smaller, content-heavy sites. Its web-focused libraries and simplicity make PHP a pragmatic choice for common applications like blogs, e-commerce stores, and company sites where fast prototyping is key.
- Python is gaining popularity for large web apps with complex functionality and processing needs. Its versatility makes it great for web applications that involve machine learning or data analytics.
So in summary, while PHP dominates overall usage, Python adoption continues to rise, especially among larger web applications. The two languages tend to complement each other.
Performance is critical for a good user experience. Let’s see how PHP vs Python compare.
- PHP’s Speed
PHP is optimized specifically for the web, so it’s very fast for typical requests:
- PHP scripts are processed faster than Python generally, often twice as fast.
- Built-in functions help cache content and queries, improving speed.
- PHP keeps variable types loose, reducing overhead during processing.
For simple CRUD applications like blogs and basic websites, PHP provides snappy performance out of the box.
Python takes a more flexible approach:
- It provides optional static typing to make larger programs more efficient.
- Performance varies by framework. Some frameworks like PyPy offer significant speed boosts.
- Python supports concurrency and parallelism for complex tasks.
So while PHP is faster for common scenarios, Python provides more control to optimize performance based on the application’s needs.
Both PHP and Python can scale to support enterprise-level web applications with proper architecture:
- Facebook uses a mix of PHP and Python to run its massive infrastructure.
- Frameworks like Laravel (for PHP) and Django (for Python) make it easy to scale applications.
- Cloud platforms like AWS and Azure allow PHP and Python apps to be scaled easily.
So for sufficiently large web apps, both languages can provide the performance needed through proper libraries, frameworks, and infrastructure.
Frameworks and Tools
The ecosystem of frameworks and tools around a language determines how quickly and easily you can build applications. Let’s contrast PHP vs Python’s ecosystems.
- PHP FrameworksThese frameworks provide common needs for web development like routing, ORM, and authentication out of the box so developers can focus on application logic.
PHP has a rich ecosystem of specialized web development frameworks:
- Laravel – The most popular PHP framework, with an expressive syntax and robust features for web apps.
- Symfony – A full-stack framework with great performance and stability.
- CodeIgniter – A lightweight and easy-to-learn framework.
- CakePHP – A framework promoting rapid application development and conventional software patterns.
- Python FrameworksPython web frameworks provide similar benefits around routing and abstraction. Overall there are fewer frameworks compared to PHP, but the top ones like Django and Flask are very full-featured.
For Python, the most popular web frameworks are:
- Django – The most commonly used Python web framework with powerful admin capabilities.
- Flask – A lightweight framework great for smaller apps.
- Pyramid – Built to be very flexible to handle different types of projects.
- Web2py – Focused on rapid app development and ease of use.
Tools and Libraries
Both languages provide robust surrounding ecosystems:
- PHP has tools like Composer for dependency management and PHPUnit for testing.
- Python has extremely extensive libraries for needs like data analysis via NumPy and Pandas.
- There are also shared tools like Swagger for API development and Docker for containerization.
So both languages provide rich ecosystems around them – PHP is more specialized for the web, and Python is more general purpose.
Security vulnerabilities can shut down a website. How do PHP vs Python compare in security?
PHP’s Checkered Past
PHP historically suffered from several security problems:
- The loose typing resulted in unexpected behavior that opened vulnerabilities.
- PHP applications and frameworks contained insecure defaults.
- Rampant issues like SQL injection plagued early PHP apps.
However, modern PHP has evolved significantly:
- PHP 7 and 8 have hardened security with built-in encryption and SQL escaping mechanisms.
- Frameworks like Laravel make it easier to implement security best practices.
- The PHP security team frequently identifies and patches vulnerabilities.
Python’s Focus on Security
Python has generally been viewed as a secure language:
- Python’s concentration on code readability results in fewer unexpected behaviors.
- The language and its libraries provide strong tools for encryption, sanitization, and more.
- Python’s more deliberate style encourages secure coding practices.
- The Python security response team also works to identify CVEs and release fixes.
So both languages have matured significantly when it comes to security. However, Python’s security reputation remains stronger overall.
Any serious web application needs to scale with user demand. How scalable are PHP vs Python?
Scaling PHP Applications
PHP’s ubiquity makes it well-supported across diverse platforms, enabling strong scalability:
- PHP applications can scale by adding caching layers like Redis and Varnish.
- Load balancing can distribute traffic across multiple PHP application servers.
- Cloud platforms like AWS and Azure allow PHP apps to quickly grow.
Modular design and proper use of frameworks like Laravel also aid scalability for PHP apps.
Scaling Python Applications
Similarly, Python provides great capabilities for scalability:
- Python applications can leverage CDNs and caching solutions.
- Its support for asynchronous processing makes it very scalable.
- Python also scales well on cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.
- Python frameworks emphasize high performance and concurrency.
So both languages provide ample ability to scale applications to support increasing traffic. Their popularity ensures continuing improvement around scalability too.
Ease of Learning
How easy is it to get started with each language? Let’s compare.
PHP – Beginner Friendly
As a scripting language designed for the web, PHP offers a gentle learning curve for newcomers:
- Simple and familiar syntax borrowed from languages like C and Perl.
- Wide range of beginner tutorials and courses available online.
- Ability to insert PHP code directly into HTML.
- Lots of pre-built libraries so less code needs to be written.
This simplicity allows new programmers to quickly build dynamic sites with PHP.
Python – Emphasis on Readability
Python was designed from the ground up to be easily readable and learned:
- The neat and consistent syntax uses natural whitespace instead of brackets.
- Focus on code readability and explicitness.
- Simpler and fewer language constructs than many other languages.
- Plentiful tutorials and documentation available for beginners.
So both languages are relatively easy to get started with. PHP may involve slightly less initial effort thanks to its web-centric nature, while Python rewards patience with high productivity over time.
Let’s look at the job markets for PHP vs Python developers.
PHP Developer Job Market
PHP’s popularity translates to plentiful job opportunities:
- PHP developer was the 2nd most in-demand tech job in 2022 according to TechRepublic.
- The average salary for PHP developers in the US is $110,000 per year, higher than many other languages.
- There were over 15,000 PHP job listings on Indeed at the time of writing.
- High demand across roles like PHP web developer, Laravel developer, WordPress development roles, etc.
Python Developer Job Market
Python developers are also in high demand:
- Python developer was the 6th most in-demand tech job in 2022 per TechRepublic.
- The average salary for Python developers is over $105,000 in the US.
- There are over 19,000 current Python job openings on Indeed, reflecting the demand.
- Roles are more varied, including backend developer, data scientist, machine learning engineer, etc.
So both PHP and Python developers are in great demand in the job market, with high salaries reflecting their importance.
Use Cases and Strengths
The ideal choice between PHP vs Python depends on the specific application needs and use cases.
PHP’s Sweet Spot
PHP shines when used for:
- Building content-heavy websites like blogs, news sites, etc.
- E-commerce sites and applications.
- Social networking sites and forums.
- CRM and other enterprise web apps.
- Shared hosting environments like those used by small businesses.
- Quickly building MVPs and prototypes.
Python stands out when used for:
- Developing complex web applications with lots of code.
- Data analysis and data science applications.
- Machine learning and AI systems.
- Building web services and APIs.
- Adding automation and scripting capabilities to projects.
- Scientific computing and numeric analysis applications.
Summary of Strengths
- PHP – Best for typical web applications from blogs to e-commerce development, especially where fast prototyping is required.
- Python – Best for complex programs and applications beyond just web development. Excellent for advanced applications involving machine learning etc.
Both languages have their places in web development. PHP provides simplicity and speed, while Python offers exceptional versatility.
PHP and Python represent two of the finest options for server-side development in 2023. Both languages have excellent communities, ecosystems, scalability, and performance.
For typical web applications that require simplicity, speed, and tight focus on the web, PHP remains hard to beat. The enormous PHP ecosystem will ensure it stays highly relevant.
However, for large and complex web apps with processing-intensive requirements, Python represents possibly an even better choice thanks to its super versatile nature, strong security reputation, and massive ecosystem of libraries for tasks like machine learning.
Rather than a zero-sum game of PHP vs Python, both complement each other in the world of server-side development. By picking the language better suited for your specific use case and app needs, you can build web applications leveraging the best strengths of PHP and Python.
At Trantor, we provide expertise across technologies including PHP and Python development to create the ideal custom solutions for your web application needs. With a results-driven approach and world-class teams, we have delivered a diverse array of projects from enterprise web apps to complex custom software involving AI and machine learning.
Whether your project requires the simplicity and speed of PHP or the versatility and scalability of Python, we have experienced resources to help architect, build, and launch your application. Our full stack spectrum model allows seamlessly integrating both frontend development and robust backend services for your custom software needs.