Python vs PHP: Which Language is Best for Web Development?
Python vs PHP: Which Language is Best for Web Development?
The software engineering field continues to be one of the most rapidly-growing industries in the US and in the world–and web developers are one of the most in-demand positions in the industry with excellent short- and long-term career prospects.
US Bureau of Labor research backs this up, predicting that web development job openings will grow by more than 20% over the next decade and add more than 45,000 jobs.
Early and mid-career software engineers interested in specializing in web development should consider mastering either PHP or Python for this purpose. That’s because both of these server-side languages have gentle learning curves, impressive performance, and excellent career prospects.
Read on to learn more about these top web development languages and figure out which is better for your career goals.
What is Python?
Python is one of the most popular programming languages used for software and web development today. Engineers prize Python because of its easy learning curve and huge range of applications.
These features have resulted in an incredible surge in popularity. The language is currently the most popular programming language in the world, according to the TIOBE index, and had the highest user growth rate of any language in 2022.
Prominent tech platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and Spotify used Python to build their powerful web applications.
Software engineers who specialize in Python programming will continue to be highly in demand in the coming years given Python’s market dominance and the wide range of projects that it can be used on.
What is PHP?
PHP, an acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, is a server-side scripting language. The open-source language is almost exclusively used for web development. It’s prized for this purpose because of its speed, easy learning curve, and dominance in web development.
Some of the most popular websites in the world, such as Facebook, MailChimp, and Etsy, used the PHP programming language to build their immensely popular web applications.
Despite the wide array of PHP advantages and powerful web development capabilities, the PHP programming language is only the 9th most popular language in the world–with a user base 1/8th the size of Python.
However, it’s important to note that while PHP is a niche language in the overall software development world, it dominates web development–with over 77% of websites utilizing PHP.
Python vs. PHP: Head to Head
Mid-career web developers who haven’t looked at recent research may wonder why this is even a question. Python has always been faster than PHP, right?
While this was true for most of PHP’s history, the web development language recently underwent the PHP 7.0 update. This update dramatically sped up the language–allowing PHP to finally outpace Python in performance.
PHP 7.0 introduced Zend Engine 3.0. This engine uses the Zend Virtual Machine, which includes the Zend Compiler and Executor, to quickly process code and deliver web pages to end users in the blink of an eye.
Importantly, this does not mean that Python is slow. Python is still considered to be one of the fastest web development languages with exceptional performance when compared to most competing languages–it just cannot match the speeds of PHP 7.0 yet.
Engineers looking to become more marketable may want to consider how each language handles cybersecurity. That’s because of the increasing importance of data privacy in software development.
Research shows that the number of successful data breaches is increasing year-over-year, with 817 reported cases in the first half of 2022 alone–affecting more than 53 million consumers worldwide this year. As a result of this ever-present cybersecurity risk, companies are focusing on hiring engineers with a background in data privacy.
Early and mid-career engineers can improve their cybersecurity bona fides and become more marketable by learning secure languages like Python–which has a variety of cybersecurity advantages over PHP.
These Python advantages include easy debugging, minimal and simplified code, automatic memory management, and excellent cybersecurity libraries.
PHP does have some cybersecurity protections, but the PHP programming language also comes with a host of security vulnerabilities. This means that it is still an excellent web development language–but cybersecurity will not be automatic and deliberate actions must be taken to safeguard your projects.
When it comes to ongoing library support and documentation, Python is once again the clear winner. The Python programming language comes with a huge library of precompiled code that can be quickly repurposed for other development needs.
Web engineers love this library of trusted code snippets because they don’t have to write an entire program from scratch–they can reuse code and modules that have been verified by other engineers and work seamlessly.
PHP, on the other hand, has a much smaller library in comparison. However, PHP 7.0 introduced Composer, a “tool for dependency management in PHP.” This cutting-edge tool allows developers to declare libraries on a per-project basis and install them in the project directory.
Web developers in the PHP community have raved about the new Composer tool and hope that it will help close the library support gap between PHP and Python.
When it comes to career options, Python is once again the clear winner. That’s because Python is the most popular programming language in the world. It achieved this popularity because it can be used for a huge range of development projects, including:
- Web Development
- AI and Machine Learning
- Data Science
- Desktop Software
- Gaming Design
Engineers who fancy themselves a “jack of all trades” and want to cultivate a resume that allows them to quickly switch gears and change niches should focus on Python. Mastery of this language will allow them to take on new and interesting projects without a steep learning curve.
On the other hand, PHP is the best language for engineers interested in specializing solely in web development. It is important to make this decision before choosing a language since PHP has limited applications outside of classic web development.
Engineers interested in pursuing a career in web development may want to consider learning either Python or PHP to increase their desirability as a candidate. Both of these server-side languages are highly effective tools for web development and are prized by employers.
Python offers better cybersecurity protections and has a larger developer community, as well as a more extensive collection of libraries. In addition, the Python programming language can be used for a wide range of development projects.
Developers interested in flexibility and the ability to work on different types of projects should learn Python as their first language.
On the other hand, engineers interested in specializing exclusively in web development may benefit from learning the PHP programming language. That’s because the vast majority of websites utilize PHP in some form–meaning that PHP developers will always have plenty of job options.