Python and PHP are two of the most popular high-level programming languages. PHP is traditionally used as a server-side scripting language, while Python is valued for its dynamics, availability, and simplicity. Despite their almost identical popularity among developers, these two languages have many specifics and differences. The wide prevalence and use of these languages lead to the question – which of them is better and more convenient?
In order to give a full answer to this question, it is necessary to carefully consider the features, functionality, and scope of Python and PHP in software development. Also important is to understand main differences and their relation. Choosing the best language for server side development between PHP and Python based on the product properties is, probably, impossible. In this article, we strive to at least explain clearly the similarities and differences between these two languages. To consciously select Python vs PHP for your project, it is worth looking at origins of these languages and the goals their creators pursued first.
The start of the development of this programming tool can be attributed to 1994 when Rasmus Lerdorf created a number of components and extensions that extended capabilities of the most popular than C language. Initially, the components were created in order to facilitate the management of the Rasmus’s own website. However, other developers quickly appreciated the new features of those components and began to actively implement them. As a result of the constant use and extension of PHP, the emergence and growth of the community, the new language has become not just popular: over 80% of the modern websites are based on it. PHP is constantly evolved and complemented by the developer team and members of a large user community together. We can safely say that PHP is on the peak now and it is still very early to talk about the decline in its popularity.
Five years older than its competitor, Python was developed by Guido van Rossum back in 1989 as the ABC language replacement. The main popularity among developers Python got in the 2000s, after the release of Python 2.0, one of the main features of which was the complete Unicode support.
Unlike PHP, Python from the start was engineered as a full stack programming language, irrelative of web development. That’s why it’s not so popular on the web – today less than 1% of websites is created and managed using Python.
Python and PHP: what is common between them?
At first glance, it may seem flawed to compare the two languages originally created for different purposes. However, seemingly different, PHP and Python have a number of common properties that make them popular:
- Both languages are easy to learn (compared to C++, Perl, and others);
- Both languages are accompanied by the extensive and detailed documentation;
- Both languages are open source and can be updated and advanced by users with the purpose of improvement;
- Wide and friendly developer communities facilitate the process of learning and working with PHP and Python;
- Portability and versatility: both languages have IDEs for all the major operating systems.
And what are the major differences?
Naturally, when choosing a language for development, its distinguishing features are the first thing that should be considered.
The first and most important difference between PHP and Python is their orientation. Python is aspect-oriented (separates the program functionality and splits the program into separate modules), while PHP is object-oriented (encapsulates code modules that contain certain functions and data into objects).
Thus, working with Python, the developer creates separate functional modules and then registers the connections between them on the “if-then” basis. It results in an algorithm that executes this or that program block based on the user’s actions.
Working with PHP means creating an integral code object that has certain properties and executes certain actions depending on the user input.
The syntax of a language is constituted by its fundamental “grammatical” rules. The main difference between various languages, be they spoken or programming, lays in syntax, and the process of learning a language is by most the study of its grammar.
The PHP’s syntax is almost the same as the syntax of C (due to its origins). When writing the code using this language, curly brackets, additional characters and operators, and other C elements are used. A nice moment in working with PHP is neglect of white spaces during the compilation, which brings additional usability and gives the ability to structure the code into simple logical components. An unpleasant feature of PHP is the incompatibility of the namespace conventions, which is why many developers do not perceive it as a full-fledged programming language. However, this feature is primarily due to the fact that the language initially was designed for the website management.
The syntax of Python, on the contrary, is based on the separation of the code with spaces and tabs, which significantly speeds up the process of coding, but increases the possibility of careless errors. Considering Python, it’s also worth noting the simplicity of commands. In fact, most of the commands in this language are similar to the corresponding words in natural English, which makes it much easier to learn.
The list of secondary PHP and Python differences is as follows:
- Python is considered a more flexible programming language, while PHP is tightly regulated;
- Python uses special packages to load additional libraries, while PHP requires loading them manually;
- Unlike PHP, where assuring the software security requires additional tools, applications written in Python are considered among the safest;
- Although Python supports a graphical user interface and can be used in web development, PHP, originally created to support web applications, is more applicable in this area.
PHP vs Python: what to choose?
For years, debates have been going on about which of the languages is more user-friendly and most applicable to various tasks: PHP or Python? Despite the many differences between these tools, which consist in a different syntax, different spheres of application and logic, these languages, nevertheless, have a number of common properties.
They are convenient, easy to learn and use, have many useful libraries, broad communities, and detailed documentation.
However, to choose the best of two, it all eventually comes down to the purpose of development. Same as in the creation of PHP and Python, before starting to learn the language and developing your own product, it is important to ask the question “what exactly do I want to get in the end?” To create simple working sites and web applications, as the experience of developers around the world and statistics reaffirm, PHP would be the best solution. However, Python would be the most optimal and convenient tool for the development of complex flexible products.
When it comes to choosing PHP or Python for mobile development, take into consideration that Python is not limited to the web development capabilities, which makes it more versatile than PHP. All the major mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile) have some kind of Python port or framework that allows developing native and web applications with a help of Python. Thanks to its regulations and logic, PHP is better applicable for web development exactly. Though there are ways to build mobile web applications over the PHP server-side backends, it is much harder as compared to Python. Not to mention that the simplest way – using the solutions by Zend company, is commercial, though not very pricey.
In general, the choice of PHP vs Python lies in the selection between stiffness and flexibility, nativity and versatility. We can even go further and compare PHP vs Python vs Java. However, the final choice always belongs to the developer and depends on the assigned task. We hope that this article helps our readers to better understand main properties of the two most popular languages and facilitates the complex process of choosing between them.
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