PHP vs. JavaScript: A comparison of the two scripting languages

Whether PHP or JavaScript is more suitable depends on the respective project requirements. While PHP is easier to learn and is considered very secure, JavaScript impresses with its combination possibilities and high speed.

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PHP and JavaScript have been around since 1995

PHP vs. JavaScript: Who the winner of this comparison is probably changes depending on which developer you talk to. Both scripting languages have large fan bases, are used by many users, and impress through various factors. If you want to decide which language is the better one, it is worth looking at its origins.

PHP was developed in 1995 by Rasmus Lersdorf and is mainly used to create websites and web applications. The name is derived from ‘Personal Home Page Tools’. PHP is a free software distributed under the PHP license. Its syntax is based on C and Perl.

JavaScript is also an integral part of modern web development. The scripting language from Brendan Eich also dates back to 1995 and was developed for dynamic HTML in web browsers.

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What do PHP and JavaScript have in common?

As different as PHP and JavaScript may be in parts, there are also similarities that go far beyond their popularity, distribution, and year of birth. For example, they are both scripting languages that are interpreted in real time. This implies, on the one hand, that they work with clearly defined commands and, on the other hand, that they can be edited with the help of a text editor. Many other Internet programming languages are therefore much more sophisticated than PHP and JavaScript. Although neither language was developed to be object-orientated, object orientation was added over time in both cases: in PHP in 2004 and in JavaScript eleven years later.

PHP vs. JavaScript: The differences between the scripting languages

Much more important in deciding between PHP or JavaScript, however, are the differences between the two scripting languages. In addition to many minor differences, the following are the biggest and most important differences:

  • Area of use: PHP is a scripting language used exclusively on the backend of a website. JavaScript was initially started as a solution for the frontend, but since 2009 it also has a backend runtime. This is why JavaScript is now referred to as a full-stack solution.
  • Server side and client side scripting: PHP runs on the server and is used to perform server-side functions. For example, it can deliver dynamic content from a local or external database to users. Unlike PHP, JavaScript is a client-side scripting language. This means that the programmed scripts are executed directly by the accessing browser. This can lead to faster accesses, but indexing in different search engines may suffer, for example, in domain forwarding.
  • Speed: In the area of performance and speed, the PHP vs. JavaScript comparison is clearly won by the client-side language. JavaScript has speed advantages, with PHP slowly but surely catching up, and the once large gap between the two options is now much smaller.
  • Combination options: JavaScript can be combined with HTML, XML, and Ajax. PHP only works in combination with HTML and can be extended with options from the LAMP stack such as MySQL or PostgreSQL.
  • Syntax and case sensitivity: Both scripting languages use the semicolon and double slash, PHP works with the hash in addition. JavaScript is case sensitive, PHP only in some cases: Variables are always case sensitive in the language, but functions are not case sensitive.
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For which projects are the two scripting languages suitable?

PHP and JavaScript are both suitable for a variety of different uses. PHP is often used for creating dynamic websites. The languages also enable the user to work smoothly with the databases. Basically, backends with PHP are not only very widespread, but also impress above all with their security aspects. PHP is also very well suited for real-time applications such as instant messengers, e-learning systems, and e-commerce solutions. JavaScript is even a bit more versatile and is used for web servers, mobile applications, 3D games, AR and VR applications, or Internet of Things products. The full-stack approach also makes JavaScript particularly well suited for large projects.

Which language is easier to learn?

Both PHP and JavaScript have a very logical structure, which is why it is basically possible to try out both languages without any problems. However, it is significantly easier for beginners to learn PHP. With a .PHP file, you can make your own first attempts and write code on a test basis.

Working with JavaScript is also likely to bring quick learning results. However, due to the size of the system and the numerous JavaScript frameworks and libraries, it takes significantly longer to really master the language and all its intricacies. The same applies to PHP and JavaScript: First, practice in a safe working environment so that mistakes don’t have a real impact on your applications.

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PHP vs. JavaScript comparison

  PHP JavaScript
First published 1995 1995
Area of use Backend Full-stack
Scripting Server-side Client-side
Speed Slower Faster
Combination options HTML HTML, XML, Ajax
Case sensitivity Partial Yes
Learning curve Quick to learn Demanding
Intended use Websites, real-time applications, e-commerce, e-learning Web servers, mobile applications, games, AR, VR, IoT

Conclusion: No winner in the PHP vs. JavaScript duel

The PHP vs. JavaScript duel has no clear winner. Both scripting languages have their strengths and weaknesses and are suitable for different tasks. Depending on the project you want to tackle, the choice may be between PHP or JavaScript. Both are logically structured, have a huge community, and offer numerous options. Thus, in the end, the result is a peaceful draw.

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