Node.js vs PHP

PHP is probably the best known and most widely used programming language on the Internet. Node.js is a popular and solid alternative. Although Node.js would probably be the technically better choice in this day and age, many still opt for PHP. Scroll all the way down for the final comparison of the two programming languages.

Web development

Intro: Nodejs vs. PHP

PHP, an acronym for Hypertext Preprocessor, is a server-side open-source scripting language developed by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994. Since its development, it has been a great success. A recent survey found that PHP is used by 77,3% of all websites with a server-side programming language. 

Node.js, on the other hand, is a cross-platform, open-source runtime environment that can execute JavaScript code outside of a web browser. Node.js allows developers to use JavaScript to write command-line tools and server-side scripts (server-side scripts that are executed to create dynamic web content before the page is sent to the visitor's browser).

Node.js was designed to unify the development of JavaScript-only web applications. Node.js was developed in 2009 by Ryan Dahl for creating scalable and fast applications and is gaining popularity in the developer community.

The two differ in several aspects when it comes to backend development. PHP is more focused on being flexible and making the job of building a website easier, while Node.js is meant to be a more powerful alternative that offers more ways to organize your project's data.



Node.js is more agile and smaller. That's the result of Google. This technology giant has contributed significantly to the performance of the JavaScript V8 engine.

The performance of Node.js is better in most cases. Although performance is also largely dependent on the skills and experience of the development team, Node.js offers several advantages over PHP in terms of performance beyond the skills of the developers.


No interpreter 

Note that Node.js is a compiled language and PHP is an interpreted language.
Compiled code can be executed seamlessly by your PC's CPU. This means that the executing code is specified in the CPU's native language.
Interpreted code must be converted from its original form to CPU machine instructions by an interpreter during execution. This translation slows down the interpreted language.



Node.js is one of the few asynchronous development environments. This is an important differentiator that gives Node.js an advantage over other languages. Being asynchronous means that there is no need to wait for one module to execute successfully before loading the next. Such execution drastically reduces the downtime of the web application and provides a seamless user experience.

Like most pre-2000 languages and technologies, PHP works with synchronicity. This means that each module and function is executed in the order specified by the code. If a function or module is not executed, the subsequent ones are not started until they are completed.



Since PHP is a pure backend programming language, its uses are very limited. Technically, it belongs to the LAMP stack, which is an acronym for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl/Python.

Node.js allows you to develop an integrated backend model, but requires a reverse proxy like Nginx or Apache, an HTTP framework like Express.js and a database like MySQL. Apart from that, JavaScript is a full-fledged development language that allows you to develop web or mobile applications on your own. 

On their own, both languages are easy to understand. It wouldn't really take a beginner long to learn both languages. However, despite the longer code, Node.js is easier to execute because only one programming language is used. So when it comes to programming, Node.js is the winner in our eyes.



As Node.js has grown with the advent of NoSQL databases, it syncs well with all forms of databases. With Javascript Object Notation - a unique data format used when interacting with databases - Node.js can easily work with NoSQL databases like MongoDB and CouchDB. It also supports graph databases and has extensive libraries for accessing SQL databases.

Because PHP is the older technology, it was designed to work with relational and conventional databases like MySQL and MariaDB. While it is possible to import libraries to work with NoSQL databases, the process is tedious and eats up a lot of processing time.



Most Node.js projects are listed in the registry. Since Node.js is relatively new, the community is smaller compared to PHP. However, the projects that are developed by the community are more oriented towards today's development needs. In fact, many projects focus on adding unique features to Node.js rather than serving as a library for importing features from other languages.

PHP has been around longer than most other technologies, so it has a larger community and a larger number of projects. However, a major problem is that the newer community-developed projects just seem uninteresting compared to Node.js.



PHP is directly or indirectly used for almost 77,3% of the Internet. Due to its majestic reach, it is designed to be compatible with all major hosting providers. With its LAMP stack, it meets the requirements of many servers. However, LAMP is not considered the most secure technology stack for hosting.



Node.js was developed about 15 years after PHP. Even though PHP is always evolving, it will always have fundamental architectural problems like the lack of asynchronous processing. Giants like Facebook have already left the sinking ship and have rewritten their application from PHP to a more modern JavaScript framework (or they have launched React.js right away).

Here again is a global summary in a nutshell:

Advantages Node.js:

  • Development efficiency
  • High speed and consistent
  • JavaScript as a full-featured programming language
  • Asynchronous processing
  • Real-time data
  • Modern

Advantages PHP:

  • Larger distribution
  • Larger community
  • Supported at any hoster


Why is PHP still so popular?

PHP is more accessible to someone without programming experience than Node.js. It requires more prior knowledge to develop a website in a compiled programming language than in an interpreted language.

If we look at the career of web developers we quickly realize why the initial hurdle can be an indication. The people who learn programming at school or university nowadays are more likely to use compiled programming languages such as Java or C++. They therefore already have the necessary expertise to use Node.js. All those who are looking for the knowledge to set up a website on their own from the Internet, most likely first come into contact with PHP and get stuck there. So a possible explanation. 



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