What is the difference between PHP and Node.js?


PHP and Node.js are both powerful backends for dynamic websites. They both fall under the same category, yet their features are quite distinct.

1. PHP

PHP (hypertext preprocessor) is a general purpose scripting language which has been designed for web development purpose. It was released in 1995, and ever since has been used as the first choice of language preference for content management systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla and a number of modern frameworks such as Laravel and Symphony.

2. Node.js

This is a javascript programming language that runs on the server. It is used to make web pages interactive and dynamic too. The emergence of Node.js in 2009 made it possible to perform asynchronous coding with Javascript.

Though both Node.js and PHP are both server side scripting languages, they are bound to have various similarities but there exists various dis-similarities as well between the two scripting languages. Let us explore the differences and similarities between them:


These two technologies have some top – level similarities. They are as follows:

Interpreted languages – Both Node.js and PHP can be run in their runtime environments. Both PHP and Node.js are interpreted languages.

Viable Choices – Both PHP and Nodes.js are used to build websites and both are run on server-side. Different reasons make one more preferred over the other. Node.js is more extensive and faster compared to PHP which may make it a more viable choice. However, some programmers prefer PHP because it is easier to pick up than a Node.js and features an integrated database.

One is not better than the other. It is the uses that determine which one would be more preferable for use.

The difference between PHP and Node.js :

Features PHP Node.js
Runtime Environment PHP has a ready to install feature to use it on the server side Node.js is a runtime environment for Javascript on the server side.
Powered by two engines PHP is powered by Zend engines Node.js is powered by Google’s V8 javascript engine
Complexity of use PHP is much simpler to use compared to Node.js. Node.js is not too complex to use but requires more lines of coding and basic understanding of closures and callback functions
JSON PHP uses it lesser than Node.js PHP makes use of json_encode() and json_decode() functions JSON works better with Node.js than PHP. Node.js uses JSON.stringify() and JSON.parse()
Concurrency PHP uses multi-threaded blocking I/O to carry out multiple tasks to run parallels alongside each other Node.js uses event-driven non blocking I/O execution model
Execution PHP is synchronous Node.js is asynchronous
Execution Speed PHP is slower than Node.js Faster than PHP and also light weight compared to PHP.
Web Server PHP runs on the Apache web server. It can also run on IIS web server in case of a windows machine. NPM does not need a web server, it runs on its own run time environment.
Package Manager Composer package manager is widely used. Node Package Manager (NPM) is widely used.

When to use PHP or Node.js?

Both are great server technologies available for use. Deciding on which back end server- Node.js or PHP server depends completely on the nature of your project.

When to use PHP

Centralized Server
In case we do not plan on scaling our application across multiple servers we can use LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) stack. This might change depending on project requirements and growth.

PHP is a highly portable language. The cheap costs of web hosting and the availability of the servers for PHP is comparable to none. PHP can run on almost any platform that has Apache, IIS and a supported database system installed, this makes PHP applications portable and easy to deploy. CMS’s like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla make it easier to create websites and work on almost every web host. WordPress powers 30% of the web.

When to use Node.js

Same Language across the Stack
Node.js will be the correct choice to use if your project involves software stacks such as MEAN stack ( MongoDB, ExpressJs, AngularJs.), dynamic single page applications, server side technologies and Front end technologies like Angular Js, Backbone.Js or React Js. This makes it easier to have the same language (Javascript) across your whole stack. You can also use Typescript library of Node.js in case of an Angular project to make it easier for the developers.Mean stack is also easier to scale than LAMP stack across multiple servers.

Realtime Data
Node.js is great for applications that require real time data, however I would be skeptical about using Node.js for financial applications as Javascript itself is not reliable when it comes to numbers as everything is integer or float and not much separation is done between the types. A more type safe language is recommended when working on financial applications that require lot of computing or a library that is reliable enough.

As I mentioned before, Node.js is faster than PHP when it comes to execution speed, if speed is what you require for your application, such as a browser based multiplayer game or a chat application, Node.js is a great choice than PHP.

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Author: Vishal Rambhiya

Vishal is highly dedicated full stack web developer at Webs Optimization Software Solution. Being enthusiastic in nature he would always work hard to achieve winning solutions for any robust requirement. He is an end-to-end product developer with a deep-rooted knowledge in each and every area. Vishal is highly motivated and he would always pursue to keep himself along with the latest trends in the industry.

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