PHP vs Python – Which One to Choose from a Business Perspective? (Part-1)
Gauri Palkhedkar

As an online entrepreneur, you’re likely to leave this choice to your developer or web application development company. And it would be fair to do so as PHP and Python (in this context) are being compared over their effectiveness for backend development. The backend here refers to the foundation upon which your website and app rest.

This naturally makes the PHP vs Python choice business-critical, which is why you as the business owner need to be in the loop. To use a real-world analog, it always pays to know as much as you can about the inner workings of a car (engine, safety equipment, electronics package etc.) when you’re in the market to buy one.

In keeping with that, we compare PHP and Python in the first of this two-part blog on some important parameters to help make this decision easier for you.

Ease of Learning, Readability, & Documentation

As a business owner, it is unlikely that you’ll need to read or write the code for your website or app’s backend. But if do, you’ll find that Python is easier to learn and read than PHP, especially if you’re new to programming. Python’s syntax is simple, elegant, and similar to real-life English language.

The challenge with learning, writing, and reading PHP lies in the syntax, which owing to its classic programming origins uses a lot of “{}” and “$” signs. This means reading, learning, or writing PHP code takes more time and focus to avoid errors. Python, in addition to a cleaner syntax, also uses whitespace indentation which further minimizes errors and typos.

Python’s easier readability also means you and your future developers can understand the code quickly, which helps with easier maintenance, adjustments, and implementation of new features. In the long run, this can help you rationalize costs. PHP, because it wasn’t created as a general-purpose language, is more complex to read.

But there is a caveat here. The readability of a given piece of code depends upon how good the programmer is. So, a well-reputed PHP development company or developer can write code that is easier to read and maintain for your future employees. However, you might not always be able to find such a developer or afford them. This is where the higher margin of error offered by Python is useful for business owners.

In terms of documentation, it is a tie here. Both languages have been around for a long time and have extensive documentation and resources freely available over the web. So, in terms of solving a problem, a web application development company or developer can use PHP and Python equally well.

Library Support

In terms of library support, Python enjoys an advantage over PHP. It offers well-developed libraries for almost every type of application. PHP is a close second here because of Packagist, which is an excellent package repository that is used widely by PHP developers.

But where Python runs away with the game is machine learning. A lot of startups and businesses these days prefer to develop web applications that support Machine Learning and AI. Python offers some brilliant Machine Learning libraries like TensorFlow, Keras, Theano, Scikit Learn etc. Not only are these libraries fast and easy-to-use but also integrate seamlessly with a web framework.

Machine Learning is not completely out of bounds for PHP though. From version 7.0 onwards, some amazing Machine Learning-libraries for PHP, like PHP-ML, have been written and made available online. However, they are recommended only for simpler tasks. For more complicated Machine Learning implementations, Python’s libraries are second to none.

Framework

PHP is the most popular server-side programming language, which means it has a large and diverse pool of frameworks. Its frameworks are also more mature and maintained by a very passionate community. Some of PHP’s most popular frameworks include Laravel, Symfony, Codeigniter, Zend etc.

Python, although it predates PHP by a few years, offers a lesser number of frameworks to choose from. However, many of its frameworks perform the same functions as those of PHP’s. For instance, Django and Flask are two popular Python frameworks used for building web applications. Django’s speed, scalability, and security are considered on par with those of Laravel and Codeigniter. Moreover, as Python becomes more popular, the number of frameworks will increase as well.

Debugging

One of the most important, and arguably harrowing, parts of creating software is debugging. It involves locating and fixing errors in the code and can consume a lot of time and money.

Python offers a debugging tool called PDB (Python Debugger), which is well-documented and easy-to-use. PHP too offers an excellent debugging package in the form of XDebug. Both of them provide the most essential debugging features, including breakpoints, path mapping, stacks etc. So, it would be reasonable to call it a tie here.

Speed

The speediness of execution can become an important factor for performance-critical applications. This is especially true for business applications like shopping and banking that handle a large number of hits daily. In such use cases, PHP is a better choice than Python.

While the difference between the two was closer till PHP 5.X, it ballooned from PHP 7.X onwards. Since a PHP program today executes almost three times faster than a similar Python program, PHP is a clear winner. Bear in mind though that this difference in speed becomes negligible for simpler programs.

Who Wins Then?

We are halfway to answering that question with this blog. Both PHP and Python have a growing and vociferous community, which makes it harder to decide which one would be better for your business-related web development project. In the next and concluding part, we’ll compare the two languages across a few more aspects and see if a definitive winner emerges.

But if you’re grappling with a similar decision and would like a quick counsel on which to choose, please reach out to us. As a web application development company that works extensively with both Python and PHP development projects, we can help you clear the air and get back to doing what you do best – growing your business.

POSTED IN: September 26, 2019 Gauri Palkhedkar

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