Node.js vs. PHP: Which Is Better For Your Business?

Node.js and backend PHP frameworks such as Laravel, Symfony, and CodeIgniter are some of the most popular frameworks for building web application backends.

Websites enable customers to trust the businesses they interact with through the means of well-designed user interfaces (UIs) and dynamic, fully-functional content.

But making sure users stay engaged is harder than it seems. 

While JavaScript is the go-to language for front-end web development, choosing what language you’ll use for your back-end development is an important decision when considering the scalability of your application. 

There are many ways to develop a website.

However, ensuring that your website meets and surpasses expectations requires web development software that can be optimized to your needs.

When this is the case, Node.js vs. backend PHP frameworks is a frequent topic of discussion. 

Both backend PHP frameworks and Node.js can be helpful tools for web development. While each tool allows for server-side scripting, many differences set them apart.

Continue reading for a deep dive into PHP and Node.js, featuring an in-depth side-by-side comparison of Node.js vs. PHP differences and similarities. 

What Is Node.js?

Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform web development framework providing JavaScript developers with a runtime environment to write and test their code. 

The most base features of Node.js like its open-source status and cross-platform availability, delegate its accessibility in two different ways. 

In the first, Node.js users are welcome to a community of developers who modify the framework towards solution-oriented modules that you can use to ease development. 

The second way merely denotes that you can run Node.js on Windows, Linux, and Mac computers, whatever your preferred operating system may be. 

Before Node.js, developers could write JavaScript directly into their browsers.

While this is certainly a convenience, having a runtime environment like that of Node.js gives JavaScript the capacity to compete with languages like Python by empowering developers to make standalone apps. 

JavaScript being perhaps the most familiar web technology available, developers using Node.js are elated to work within a “JavaScript everywhere” paradigm.

Essentially, this means that developers can rely on a single language – specifically JavaScript – for all facets of development. 

Usually, the software development process is heavily dependent on a tech stack which includes different languages and frameworks to manage different parts of development. 

For instance, while JavaScript might be deployed for front-end development, another language like Python or Ruby might be utilized for back-end development, and an entirely different database language is often necessary as well. 

What Are the Advantages of Node.js?

Besides being an excuse for web developers to use JavaScript more than they do already, Node.js comes with an array of nuanced advantages that can aid your business’s web development. Simple

Node.js is easy to learn, especially if you’re already familiar with JavaScript and object-oriented programming (OOP) fundamentals.

Most professional web developers should have complete mastery of JavaScript and OOP concepts as is, so there’s not a steep learning curve. 

To boot, Node.js lends a bridge connecting front-end and back-end development. The result is less miscommunication and knowledge gaps between one end of development to the other.

Software development teams only need to be responsible for one codebase and one deployment.

Fast 

You’ve learned about some of the features of Node.js making it particularly fast when it comes to developing and running software. These features make deployment speedy as well. 

For your business, this leads to faster time-to-market cycles. Time is always a crucial factor for startups who are eager to release software and gather constructive feedback.

Scalable

A few other Node.js features serve to remind developers that the framework’s design is built for scalability.

One such feature is load balancing, a methodical distribution approach where requests are pushed to the servers most available to fulfill them

Another superpower of Node.js is its ability to handle a large number of concurrent connections.

This is exactly what it sounds like and permits many users to use your website at once without overloading the system. 

Reliable

Developers who are anxious about using new software should be relieved to know that many major companies have done the same with great results.

PayPal, Netflix, and eBay are some of the more popular use cases. Later, you’ll find out how exactly these companies put Node.js to work. 

Community

Since Node.js is both open-source and cross-platform, there are few, if any, limitations on the growth of its community.

Of course, this community will be paramount in helping you solve new problems that arise and seek out advice. 

When Is the Use of Node.js Recommended?

JavaScript is first and foremost a language for front-end development.

Prior to its conception, developers could only make static web content. After a web page was loaded in the browser, it remained as is, plain and unmoving.

The invention of JavaScript brought about the possibility for dynamic web page content.

Simply put, this was the gateway for developing interactive and attractive UIs, something that users with a short attention span can actually look forward to. 

But this evolution could not take place without the use of client-side scripting.

This way, elements of a web page can be updated on the client-side or browser without JavaScript having to communicate with the server. 

Node.js, in contrast, is for server-side scripting and back-end development.

Though client-side JavaScript is immensely useful, Node.js authorizes developers to use JavaScript for the logic, functionality, and database systems that are essential to running a website as a whole. 

In sum, the use of Node.js is recommended to program non-blocking, event-driven servers.

Not to mention, you can use its developmental advantages to quickly build a minimum viable product to test on the market. 

What Websites Use Node.js?

Having an idea of how a couple of hotshot companies take advantage of Node.js might help you figure out what Node.js can do for you.

Here are a few examples. 

PayPal 

PayPal is an online system to make financial transactions safely. You can send and receive money directly through your account or connect PayPal with your bank. 

In 2013, PayPal’s web applications abandoned Java in favor of JavaScript and Node.js.

Historically – and this is true for most web developers – PayPal’s engineering team was divided between front-end and back-end development. 

The consequence of this disunity was that their full-stack engineers were restricted in their true capacity.

Node.js fixed this. As a result, PayPal’s Node.js app was built twice as fast with fewer developers, written with 33% fewer lines of code, and 40% fewer files.

Netflix 

Netflix is a popular streaming service where users pay a small monthly fee for perhaps unparalleled access to a diverse range of films and series.

Given that at least every other person you know uses Netflix it is important that the Netflix web app is fast and scalable. Node.js is lightweight and powerful enough to deliver just that. 

Specifically, Netflix uses a microservices architectural approach with Node.js.

Due to this approach, Netflix is encompassed through a variety of smaller services instead of as a singular web app.

eBay

eBay is an e-commerce platform where just about anybody can buy and sell products as they wish. 

Although the platform primarily uses Java, eBay engineers realized utilizing Java consumed more resources than necessary as compared to using JavaScript on the back-end with Node.js.

Based on this realization, eBay decided to start from the ground up and build a Node.js server with scalability built-in.  

What Is PHP?

PHP is a general-purpose scripting language. The letters P-H-P represent a recursive acronym for Hypertext Preprocessor.

This terminology reflects PHP’s common usage in web development, as you can insert PHP right into the HTML – or Hypertext Markup Language – of a web page.

As HTML exists on the server-side, so does PHP, seamlessly integrating server-side scripting into the web development process. 

Because PHP is a scripting language, as is JavaScript, PHP is interpreted at runtime in turn for compiled languages that are translated to machine code prior to runtime

For this reason, compiled languages have the advantage of speed. But interpreted or scripting languages tend to provide higher-level abstractions, making it easier to write bug-free code. 

The PHP language is also highly portable. It can be deployed on most web servers on almost every operating system and platform. 

What Are the Advantages of PHP?

You’ll notice that some of the advantages of PHP and Node.js line up. This is why it’s so difficult to choose the right software and why Node.js vs. PHP is a worthy argument for any team of developers. 

Simple

PHP is considered to be an easy programming language to learn, especially when compared to other languages tailored for web development.

This is because PHP is native to the web and conceptual simplicity is embedded in its design. 

A PHP site can consist of just one file per page. Of course, this requires a more intuitive understanding than other languages for web development where developers must figure out what goes where and in what file. 

The syntax itself is also logical and well-organized. There are basic coding principles like with any other languages, but you will find that PHP data structures need only a foundational comprehension. 

Fast

Even when your website visitors are cursed with slow internet and disappointing data speeds, PHP can rise against such setbacks, loading fast and easy.

Other applications lose speed because they spend time connecting to databases. 

In contrast, PHP has a built-in module easing the process of connecting with databases. MySQL is the most commonly used database. 

Flexibility

On the topic of databases, PHP supports connections to almost any database type.

Other than MySQL, there is mSQL, MS-SQL, SQLite, PostgreSQL, and more. PHP can also be used with non-relational databases like ElasticSearch, Redis, and MongoDB.

Stable

PHP has been around for over two decades. During this time frame, PHP’s community has taken the opportunity to improve application two and threefold using the convenience of its open-source licensing.

When Is the Use of PHP Recommended?

Your developers can choose to make static or dynamic web pages using PHP.

This was its initial purpose. But since it’s creation, developers have opted to use PHP to build the server-side of web applications. 

In this vein, PHP is effectively a back-end development language. However, it’s important to note that PHP is actually general-purpose so you can use it for less obvious configurations

You can develop desktop applications in PHP. And PHP’s latest versions support object-oriented programming, making it even more practical for development needs. 

What Websites Use PHP?

Some of the most popular websites you know have effectively used PHP to optimize their web development.

Take note of how the following websites used PHP to enhance user experiences. 

Facebook 

Facebook is a massive social network that is growing larger every day.

Much of Facebook’s user-facing content is developed in PHP. Though since Facebook’s origin, they’ve expanded their tech stack.

In fact, Facebook created their own version of PHP known as Hack, which is supported by the HipHop Virtual Machine (HHVM) – another Facebook creation.

It converts PHP into C++ leading to better overall performance. 

WordPress

WordPress is the most popular content management system there is.

Through WordPress, non-technical professionals can build their own website without knowing much of anything about programming. 

Ironically, almost every bit of WordPress is built with PHP from its themes to plugins.

More code-friendly WordPress users can also learn PHP to better customize their websites. 

Wikipedia

Wikipedia hosts information about nearly any topic you can think of via an online free encyclopedia that utilizes an open collaboration model. 

While the original version of Wikipedia used Perl, PHP was essential in scaling Wikipedia to be more user-friendly and to that end, welcome more users

Node.js vs. PHP: Side-by-Side Comparison

If all the information you’ve read has yet to solidify your opinion on Node.js vs PHP, then perhaps you need a side-by-side comparison comparing Node.js and PHP performance in all their relevant categorizations. 

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous

Node.js is asynchronous; PHP is synchronous. This can be a major point of division for those invested in Node.js vs. PHP discourse. 

You should already have an idea of what asynchronous languages are. In plain, these languages are tired of waiting and move from one request to another without delay. 

Synchronous languages like PHP are more patient. When PHP receives a file request, the task is sent to the computer’s file system, then there is a waiting period while the file system opens and reads the file.

The content is returned to the client. And finally, PHP is ready to handle the next request. 

As imagined, waiting for your turn doesn’t exactly speed up development. Node.js is therefore faster, and at least in this regard, better. 

TL;DR: Node.js wins.

Language Switches

Earlier you had the chance to review the concept of “JavaScript everywhere” as it applies to Node.js.

The benefits of this programming paradigm should be obvious to the average developer who must deal with language switches when working on the back-end versus the front-end of development. 

On the other hand, PHP’s chief usage is for back-end web development. Developers are probably familiar with the LAMP stack, a popular technology stack made up of Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP

Although such a stack is well-prepared to address all your development needs, it’s much easier to use Node.js as a runtime environment and employ full-stack JavaScript developers.

In this case, putting all your eggs in one basket is actually recommended. 

TL;DR: Node.js wins.

Modules & Frameworks

The subject of modules and frameworks may result in a tie for the Node.js vs. PHP deliberation. But it’s still important to know what each software can offer. 

In PHP, you can use PEAR to access reusable components and Composer to manage your package dependencies.

PHP also has many functional frameworks to help you with your development needs, Laravel and CodeIgniter being the most popular. 

Through Node.js you’ll have the Node Package Manager (npm) available to you where you can publish and use packages with ease. 

There are no huge differences between the two, except that using the command-line interface (CLI) installation for Node.js is relatively stress-free, but not enough to tip the scales. 

TL;DR: Stalemate

Databases 

PHP has built-in database support. Comparatively, with Node.js you must connect with databases through NPM libraries.

This is not exactly a disadvantage, but it does highlight PHP’s very intentional dedication to database support. 

TL;DR: PHP wins.

Community

Approximately 80% of the web is powered by PHP.

Being free and open-source, it goes without saying that PHP isn’t small-time on any scale. It’s also had an abundance of time to build its community since 1994. 

Node.js was only released in 2009. Yet the language it runs on – JavaScript – has been a revolutionary tool in web development since its 1995 release.

You can bet when Node.js launched that a flock of JavaScript developers rushed to test the waters, and haven’t stopped swimming yet. 

By these standards, PHP and Node.js are par for par. 

TL;DR: Stalemate

Learning Difficulty

This is another topic in which the Node.js vs. PHP debate has head-to-head numbers.

It is difficult to compare the two because PHP is a language and Node.js is an environment/framework.

Despite some calling PHP the easiest language there is, there is virtually no learning curve for web developers with Node.js as every web developer should be familiar with JavaScript in the first place – no matter what software they use for back-end development. 

Ultimately, there’s no real winner here. But they’re both easy-to-learn languages. 

TL;DR: Stalemate

Speed & Performance

Node.js and PHP should be your top choices if you want to prioritize speed for web development.

As a matter of fact, PHP 7 is twice as fast as its predecessor, PHP 5. But when you compare Node.js and PHP directly, Node.js is much faster than PHP in execution. 

TL;DR: Node.js wins. 

Scalability

Technically, any framework or language can be scalable. But some languages and frameworks are better suited than others to scale up over time.

In this case, Node.js is typically favored over PHP for scalability as making complex PHP applications requires a higher than average proficiency in the language. 

TL;DR: Node.js wins. 

Conclusion

Unfortunately, stacking software against each other doesn’t solve all your problems.

Your business must take on an analytical role and consider each advantage and disadvantage closely to truly figure out what’s best.

PHP might not be as fast or event-driven as Node.js, but maybe database connectivity will be a determining factor in the specific software you decide to build. 

When you do start building, besides what language or framework you use, it’s dually important that you have professionals to make sure you use them to their best ability. Trio can help you with that. 

Our developers are qualified and trained to get your business where it needs to be.

We have both Node.js developers and PHP developers to move your forward. Learn more about Trio today!

Cordenne Brewster

About

A tech enthusiast whose ardor is best expressed through the written word

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re looking for some information, but can’t find it here, please contact us.

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What is node.js?

Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform web development framework providing JavaScript developers with a runtime environment to write and test their code.

When is the use of node.js recommended?

JavaScript is first and foremost a language for front-end development.

What is php?

PHP is a general-purpose scripting language. The letters P-H-P represent a recursive acronym for Hypertext Preprocessor.

When is the use of php recommended?

Your developers can choose to make static or dynamic web pages using PHP.