Node.js vs PHP: The Battle of Web Programming Languages

The real question that arises in the mind of a new web developer is: PHP vs Node.js, which one to choose?

For the longest time, PHP was used for the backend development of web applications while JavaScript used to handle the frontend of the website.

Finally, in 2009, Ryan Dahl felt a gap in the functionalities of the programming language of that time and it led to the generation of a new development environment: Node.js. The rest, as they say, is history.

Even if you are experienced in this field and wish to be a freelancer, build your own app, or try to get on a modern-day application development team, you may be faced with the dilemma of choosing between Node.js vs PHP.

We will first start off by a little backstory on both these platforms, Nodejs vs PHP. So here goes:


PHP was originally created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994. PHP stood for “personal homepage” but now it stands for “hypertext preprocessor”.

Lerdorf initially did not intend to write a programming language. He wrote several lines of code in C to maintain his personal homepage.

With time, he extended his work and included more features, and hence, the language grew organically. Perhaps this is the reason that some names of the functions and ordering of parameters are inconsistent in PHP.


Node.js was initially written by Ryan Dahl in 2009. Initially, it only supported Linux or Mac OS X. With the passage of time, Dahl partnered with various organizations to add features in Node.js.

The main purpose behind creating this platform was because Dahl criticized the limited capacity of the Apache HTTP server to handle a lot of concurrent connections.

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Node.js vs PHP Detailed Comparison

Now we are just going to dive right into the comparison of PHP vs Node.js. The pros and cons of both Node.js and PHP along with their detailed descriptions.

Node.js PHP
Node.js is an open source server environment. Basically it means that the original source code is free to use and you can make changes to it without any copyright issues. PHP is a server side, open source, general purpose scripting language which is specific to only web development.
Compatible platforms
Node.js uses JavaScript on the server side. It can be run on various platforms such as Linux. Unix, Windows, Mac OS X etc. PHP runs on all the platforms like Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Unix etc. and is also compatible with servers such as Apache etc.
Ease of use
It is relatively complicated to code on Node.js due to deployment of frameworks and applications.   It is quite easy to use PHP, as it is hassle free from the responsibility of including converters or compilers.  
Environment of the platforms
Although new additions are constantly being added to Node.js and but its development environment is still considered a little immature. It is likely attributed to the usage of complicated code structure.   PHP is quite a stable language. In other words, it is a mature language, so a lot of modifications have been added over the years to it and bugs have been removed. This makes PHP more reliable than its counterpart, Node.js.  
Use of modules
You can use preinstalled modules while working in Node.js, e.g., NPM. You don’t need to create another code from scratch, instead just grab these modules and use it in your application which makes your life much easier.   PHP requires you to install modules and then use them. Hence, this delivers a bit of a struggle to manually download and then install them.  
Application in various domains
Node.js can be used in the development of a variety of applications apart from web apps, such as embedded applications. Moreover, it allows you to create full on advances applications.   PHP is only intended for web development and you may see it being widely used in many modern day web apps.  
Database usage
Node.js can be used to access databases using various libraries. Similarly, it uses JSON to connect with NoSQL databases. JSON can be perfectly used with Node.js as compared to PHP.   PHP handles the MySQL databases very perfectly. However, it also supports other versions of databases like PostgreSQL and Maria DB.  
Hosting on servers
Node.js has a limited range of servers on which it can be deployed. Likewise, Node.js requires a virtual server having SSH access for the same end result.   PHP is going to work on a number of web servers out there. Whether you’re going to go for shared hosting, VPS or a dedicated web server, PHP pretty much works on all those servers. Hence, it is very simple to deploy, all you have to do is create a website and deploy it to shared hosting and your website is now live.
Code readability
Unlike the huge code base in PHP, JavaScript users hardly face the issue of complex code mangeability.   In PHP, sometimes your code can be difficult to read and navigate. Over time, it can be a bit of a challenge to work on that code. Because it is less readable. If you have a couple lines of code, its fine but if you have quite a lengthy code so the embedded code makes it a less readable for you.  
Node.js provides a continued server connection and allows for multiple requests to be catered to using callback functions. One of the most important feature of node.js is of being asynchronous. This means that you can send requests to the server as much as you like without refreshing the page and receive response from the server. This can allow for a wide variety of features to be embedded on your modern day applications.     PHP initializes your application every time you submit a response to the server. E.g. if you created an MVC, (model view controller) using PHP, so whenever you submit requests into your server, PHP will reinitialize your application from the scratch. In simple words, every single request to the server will cause the system to initialize your application and hence, it will need more server resources, time and more server requests handling and this can cause a little bit of slow response time.  
Intensive apps
If you wish to create a web app that is quite CPU intensive, node.js is not meant for that purpose. PHP is optimum to do this job or some modern day solutions like Python is also recommended.  
Backend/frontend solution
Node.js uses JavaScript so you can work both frontend and backend. Since JavaScript is a language for front end, and Node.js takes care of the backend development so you can be a fullstack developer.   PHP can only be used for backend coding of the web applications.

So what should I go for between PHP VS Node.js?

The answer is not black and white. Rather you have to look at your context in any given scenario and take an informed decision based on the information we provided you about PHP vs Node.js comparison.

Moreover, you have to prioritize what is the need of the client or the purpose behind a web application. Accordingly, you can choose which environment to select between Node.js vs PHP.

Some Example Scenarios for Node.js VS PHP:

For example, if you are trying to make a client-side application or a browser application, go for Node.js.

If you have to make a blogging website, WordPress (PHP) would be perfect for that scenario.

If you want to be a modern-day web apps developer, you should definitely learn node.js, because it gives more options and modules to choose from.

Likewise, the popularity of Node.js is rapidly growing because of its flexible architecture.

However, if you quickly want to make a lightweight website using one of the famous CMS (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.) you can go for PHP without a second thought.

PHP works well for freelancers or small projects and it is also in high demand because it’s easy to work with. Moreover, it also has a lot of MVC frameworks that will make the day for you.


All in all, the war between PHP vs Node.js is one that will continue as both the platforms keep upping their game and improving their functionalities.

It’s up to you to decide which environment is best suited to your needs: PHP vs node js.

Happy coding!

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