Monday, 25 June 2012

Top five reasons why PHP is a better choice than java and .NET for building most public web sites

Reference :
PostDateIconJanuary 30th, 2011 | Author: Indra
With title as above, I am sure to draw flames from both .NET and java camps. So I want to be clear at the outset by stating that this article is about developing a web site for public consumption which is typically hosted by a web hosting company. This is not about developing a web application or a web site that runs inside a corporate firewall.
Most of my career I have spent programming in java/J2EE and .NET environments. Like many developers, I also learned PHP, groovy and ruby along the way. Today, when I think of creating a website of moderate complexity, I am more inclined towards using a PHP framework rather than using a java or a .NET framework or any other framework out there. I have worked on java web frameworks like JSF, Echo2, Vaadin, Grails and recently Play. Similarly I have worked on Silverlight, ASP.NET and ASP.NET MVC. My conclusion is that, in overall, PHP frameworks beat both java and .NET frameworks in terms of ease of development, deployment and even maintenance- for creating web sites with moderate complexity. Of course, I do not expect you to take my words for granted. Read on to see what reasons I have to offer:
PHP web hosting options are superior
Search on the Internet for the best web hosting companies. Invariably all of them support PHP and the LAMP stack. Almost always, none of them will support java or .NET. The number of web hosting companies supporting PHP far outweighs the number of companies supporting .NET and java. Needless to say that PHP websites are also cheaper to host. You can host PHP websites as low as $5 a month or even less. Java and .NET hosting are more expensive, in general.
Just because web hosting with PHP is cheaper, however, does not mean that PHP sites are less performant and have less reliability than their java and .NET counterparts. It is not uncommon for java and .NET web sites to be restarted periodically to get rid of unwanted resource locking and resource hogging. It is far uncommon to restart the reliable Apache Web Server to get rid of such issues.
You can find PHP support easily on most cloud platforms. Even Microsost has made it a top priority to support PHP on Windows Azure platform and has come up with a PHP SDK to access Azure storage and platform functionality.
PHP provides rapid development and instant gratification to developers
Ever developed a web application using silverlight, ASP.NET ot ASP.NET MVC? Or developed an application under a J2EE server like Tomcat, Glassfish or JBoss? Every time you change a class you have to stop the running application, recompile your changes and then restart the application. Whether you make a little change or a big one, you will have to go through the following steps:
  • First you have to stop the currently running application. Typically this involves closing a browser window.
  • Then you recompile your changes from the IDE. This may end up compiling one or more project sources.
  • Then you restart the application and the browser window opens up showing your application.
  • Then you navigate to the right page in the web site in order to see your changes.
Do you see something wrong with this? I do. I obviously do not want to recompile one or more projects, open up my application in a new browser window and navigate to the desired page every time I want to verify my changes. When I am developing code, I should be able to see the result of my changes as quickly and as frequently as possible. With both .NET and java devlopment environments, I found myself waiting 50% or more of the time on compilation and restart. With projects having a huge code base, this may lead to nothing but frustrations. Faster computers usually do not help. Both java and .NET developers (myself included) are used to such doodle during recompilation – so much so that they have devloped an insensivity towards it. Therefore most of them will not see this as a problem at all.
In contrast, when you develop a web site in PHP, you do not have to go through this notorious compile/build/deploy cycle. You make your changes to a PHP script, refresh the browser window and you will see your changes instantly. Add a bunch of new scripts to your web site. You do not have to restart the server. Just refresh the browser window as usual. This is possible because PHP uses so called “share nothing” architecture where all resources are discarded after serving a request.
PHP web frameworks provide a complete stack sufficient to develop a great many web sites
PHP web frameworks typically provide a complete stack of technologies required for web development. By complete stack of technologies, I mean everything from data access on the server side to GUI components in the presentation layer. Example of such frameworks are Yii, cakePHP, symfony, CodeIgniter only to name a few. All of them also have good integration with javascript libraries like jquery.
In contrast web frameworks in java like JSF, Vaadin, Echo2/Echo3, Wicket, GWT etc. are just client side techonologies for the browser. No doubt, they provide very good solutions for the presentation layer but you are responsible for figuring out what server side technology to use for serving data. For example, you need to decide whether to use JDBC, hibernate, JPA or a web service for data access. Java frameworks like Grails and Play are an exception since they provide a full stack of technologies for web development. However, while developing an website in Grails I found myself hunting for plugins even to do simple things like thumbnail generation.
Same can be said about ASP.NET, ASP.NET MVC and Silverlight. They provide robust client side technology but then you are resposible for figuring out what server side technology to use by yourself – like whether to use ADO.NET, Linq to SQL, Entity Framework or NHibernate/Spring.NET for data access.
It is worth metioning that popular PHP frameworks use MVC pattern for controlling navigation between of web pages and uses ActiveRecord pattern for data access. I found the ActiveRecord pattern more clean and elegant than Hibernate, NHibernate, Linq to SQL or Entity framework. The ORM part of the stack that comes with PHP frameworks are usually pretty robust. For example, I have not came across something like LazyInitializationException with any PHP frameworks I have used which I come across often with Hibernate. And I have found that PHP ORM layers can handle one-1-one, one-2-many, many-2-many entity relationships very well.
PHP frameworks provide a low barrier of entry for web developers
There are several reasons why PHP provides a low barrier of entry for web site developers. The PHP language itself is easy to learn than java and C#. So newcomers can get their hands dirty with PHP examples quickly. Also the instant gratification factor of PHP helps newcomers to learn various aspects of the language quickly. Like java or C#, PHP is a fully object oriented language. PHP is, in fact, more dynamic than java and C#. Because of its interpretive nature, PHP is not strongly typed.
Secondly, it is easy to get PHP up and running quickly on bare machine. You can download XAMPP or XAMPP Lite and can start the Apache web server, MySQL amd a mail server on your machine in minutes. You need to install an IDE like Netbeans, PhpStorm, ZendStudio or others for editing you code. Compare this to setting up your development environment in java and .NET. In java it is not so bad after all – you have to download the right version of the JDK and then install your favorite IDE like IntelliJ IDEA, Netbeans or Eclipse before you start developing your web application. Setting up the development enviroment in .NET is the worst. First you have to install the right version of .NET framework on your machine which may take anything from half an hour to two hours. Then you have to install Visual Studio which may take several hours. I found that I had to spend half a day or more setting up my development enviroment in .NET. I had a pretty high-end machine with 4GB of RAM.
No DLL or jar hell
It is a great relief that I do not have to deal with DLL or jar hell while devloping a web site in PHP. While developing an application with NHibernate/Spring.NET, I came across an exception that does not realy tell me what the problem is. I spent several hours browsing Internet forums to see if others have similar problems, only to discover that I did not have the right version of one DLL. Then another round of wild google chase to find the right version of the DLL.
I encountered similar issues with grails when started developing a web site that used several grails plugin. When one of the plugins failed to work, I had to browse the Internet for several hours to find the solution. And guess what the solution was. Use the right version of jar file because the plugin is not compatible with any other version of the jar.
When I deveop a web site using PHP, I do not come across such issues frequently because, like I said before, most PHP frameworks provides complete stack of technologies and I do not have to use a whole lot of third party extensions. Even in cases, where I used third party extensions and there was a problem, the problem was much easier to resolve because of scripting nature of PHP.
PostCategoryIconPosted in PHP, Web development | PostTagIconTags: PHP, Web development
29 Responses to “Top five reasons why PHP is a better choice than java and .NET for building most public web sites”
  • Mr Z says:
Nice post. Not too many seem willing to be kind of objective about the tools available to build a website with. I agree that your view here is not perfect for business web application behind corp firewall, but it does apply to a huge number of other websites. I also think there are specific instances/requirements where PHP will not be the best choice, but in the large number of situations it is a great choice.
When you are stuck using a particular technology, you end up being stuck with a limited number of solutions – only tool is a hammer, all problems are nails. I’ve been looking around casually for someone that compares PHP to Grails or others in a technical feature list kind of way, and perhaps how you implement great feature xyz of one environment in the other. Interesting note on this, looking at Grails GORM and what the programmer has to do to use it and how that would/can be implemented in PHP as an example.
There is always lots to learn. Good post.
  • Coder says:
This is just not true anymore. Check e.g.
  • Jacques Marques says:
Excellente points, I agree with you in all, and more PHP is far more easy to programm then .NET an Java.
And Python web is a better choice than Php ;)
  • Mikael says:
I personally feel that play addresses most of these points pretty well.
If anything it might need a bit more time to mature, but on the other end it provides most of the flexibility available to PHP with the whole Java echo system available.
  • peter says:
>Java and .NET hosting are more expensive, in general.
What about Google Application Engine? (GAE) You can start hosting Java websites/applications there for free.
Well, GAE is pretty cool but it lacks alot of things including one major thing which is the DB, I know you are going to tell me to use the Datastore, but it lacks the benefits of a true RDBMS
One deadly limitation of the datastore, that you can’t use the OR in different fields
for instance you can do this: SELECT * FROM tablename WHERE field_x = 1 OR field_x = 2
but you can’t do this: SELECT * FROM tablename WHERE field_x = 1 OR field_y = 1
Amazing post, I don’t know how java developers have the patience for the process mentioned just to change a little thing.
  • peter says:
>Whether you make a little change or a big one, you will have to go through the following steps:
This is not true. Without any additional tools I can change JSP pages, Facelets and other resources. I can also change code -within the method body- of classes. After a refresh, the changes are there.
If I want to change the structure of a class without having the restart anything, I simply install JRebel. Works great.
(p.s. it’s also Java EE, not J2EE, that’s a very old term)
I completely agree with you. PHP is very easy to start up, develop and host compared to the other environments, especially when using a framework. I also find it speed wise performing better in general.
Final note, from my experience is that PHP also has better community adn documentation on the web which helps development time.
Great post!
  • Indra says:
First of all, thanks for all the responses.
Coder and Mikael, I agree your comments about Play. Play is the only framework that has given me the same experience as PHP. However, Play framework is yet to mature. I am still experimenting with Play and hope to write about Play in the near future because I like many things about that framework.
Peter, while your points are true about JSP, it is not true for all java classes in the application. For example, I tried to create an application using Vaadin and Grails, and every time I change a class in the UI layer, the application will restart in the development environment under IntelliJ IDEA. I have not used JRebel but will take a look at it to see if that addresses my issues.
Also yes, you can start hosting in GAE for free and pay as you go on. However, I find GAE to be a considerably limiting environment. First of all, GAE does not support Hibernate, the most widely used ORM tool in java. It has limitations on the number of files. Many java EE APIs are not available. So on and so forth. But for starter it can be a good option if you can live with these limitations.
I had a discussion with colleagues on this exact topic a couple of days ago, and was promoting Php. I couldn’t pack my arguments nicely at all, but I no longer need to. I’ll just point them to this post :)
I have bookmarked your site for future referrence! Greetings.
  • Raphael says:
Java and .net have tons of full-stack integrated web frameworks for rapid development, no jar hell, no verbose configuration, easly start and entry level. I’ve been using grails for 2 years and deployed 4 projects to Google app engine so far.
I’ve worked with php for 3 years and in java for 3 years and in my opinion, using rapid framework in java provide much better tools for development, deployment and scaling.
I think your knowledge of java and .net ecosystem is very limited. Check out play framework, Lift-web, Scalatra, MVC, Grails, Jython/Django, JRuby/Rails, Wicket.
GAE/J apps can use JPA wich is modeled after and in fact vary similar to hibernate. Uou can also host in AWS and several other cloud vendors where you pay as go which reduce costs wuite a lot.
I fully undestand the advantages of python, ruby, php agaist java/.net but the arguments you used are very weak.
  • peter says:
I didn’t use IntelliJ, but using Eclipse and a server adaptor that does incremental deployment (most of them, but make sure you use/install the right one) nothing ever restarts when you change code inside a method of a class.
This is a feature of the JVM that underlies each and every framework, including Java EE itself. It therefor doesn’t matter which class and where you change it.
But note its limitation. Only code changes inside a method is supported this way. If you change the structure of a class (add, remove or rename a method, etc) you need JRebel.
About GAE, JPA works out of the box on it. Many programmers prefer to use the JPA APIs instead of the raw Hibernate APIs anyway. Web frameworks like JSF and quite a few others also work on it. Many existing libraries are being patched to work on GAE.
So yes, not -everything- works on it. But -a lot- does, and all of this is for free.
  • Indra says:
Raphael, your answer is very typical of developers who focus only on the solution but not on the problem. If PHP can do the same thing at a much lower cost why should not I use PHP? May be I did not articulate myself carefully. Java and .NET have large ecoystems and toolings. What is so great about that? Both technologies are also responsible for a lot of failures in the corporate world.
By the way, I have used Gails and deployed apps on Gigenet cloud. Not a big deal. Grails GORM and configuration-less Spring integration are great but I miss the instant gratification factor when I change a script in Grails. When you change a gsp file, Grail application will not reload but when you change a service class or some other class it will reload resulting in stalled browser sessions frequently. I found this annoying. Only java framework that has addressed this to my satisfaction is the Play framework. But I do not think Play is ready from prime time yet.
Grails has a good templating system but very few HTML/Javascript helpers in the UI layer. It does not even have a simple datagrid component (sure you can use jquery and get one). Compare this to a PHP MVC framework like Yii which has support for a GridView(with ajax of course), DetailView, a dropdown menu and whole lot of HTML helpers out of the box. Also look at the way documentation is organized in that site and see how quickly everything is searchable –
Its hard for me to find useful blogs nowdays but when i saw this i knew i was in the right place, I finally have time to clean up the Your a lifesaver.
  • Sorokan says:
PHP has it’s advantages, but what’s about it’s disadvantages? It’s simply not a well designed language, it’s rubbish. And the framework? Zend is a nightmare. Debugging is a nightmare. Its 100 times slower than java. It’s inconsistent all over the place.
Every real programmer that is more than a web kiddy hates it, and there’s a reason for that ;-)
>>It’s simply not a well designed language, it’s rubbish.
The language does suck in a lot of ways; however, I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is complete rubbish. Also, it gets better all the time. In fact, PHP has closure support and traits on the way.
>>And the framework? Zend is a nightmare.
Actually, there is only a framework called “Zend Framework”, not Zend. Zend is a company. Also, why is it a nightmare? And compared to what?
>>Debugging is a nightmare.
Depends on the person that developed the code. This can happen to a Java codebase as well. This statement is pretty general and subjective.
>>Its 100 times slower than java.
Depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If raw speed is all you ever care about in the real world, then may I suggest you convert all your existing Java code to C or C++.
>>It’s inconsistent all over the place.
Yes, it is. No debate there.
>>Every real programmer that is more than a web kiddy hates it, and there’s a reason for that
Not all “real” programmers completely hate it, but most competent programmers that continue to use it are annoyed by some of the inconsistencies and inelegances; however, know how to side-step them to get the job done well.
Indra I might be biased but agree with you, PHP is better choice for less complicated websites and even when it comes to complicated one most of the time we end-up using heterogeneous technologies not just one..
You can see FB is one of them.
  • Indra says:
Well, my comments are about a public facing website with moderate complexity. For most such web sites a PHP framework provides everything you need to create such a site. Again PHP is not a rubbish language. It has evolved. Sorry, it is an object oriented scripting language which is more dynamic than both java and C#. For example, in PHP you can add a method to a class at runtime which you can’t do in java or C# without byte code instrumentation. PHP is not as object oriented as java and not as dynamic as ruby but is good enough for the web. It is simple and easy. What’s is so wrong in being simple and easy to learn. Are we not all striving for simplicity?
  • Indra says:
A lot of java/.net programmers got irritated by the fact that I suggested that the PHP stacks to be more complete that java and .NET frameworks. This was unintentional. My point was that PHP frameworks are complete enough to do the job of creating a web site with moderate complexity. I program myself both in java and .NET and understand fully well the advantage of an enterprise framework in building a robust and secure application. I just do not want to use the same hammer to drive every nail.
The layout is what really caught my eye, then the i looked at the writing and i think you did a very nice job. Good work:)
  • franpas says:
Good post! There are really good points on the comparison. Although I’m biased to strong typed languages, I still haven’t found a good option (phpunit??) to detect type changes before running the application and avoid a crash. In that sense, I don’t know which language offers a better aproximation (among php, ruby or python) :(
Thanks for the post!
Yes, PHPUnit will do all you need and more in PHP. If you are doing enterprise work in PHP, you absolutely want to be using PHPUnit.
Your question regarding php vs ruby vs python…well, they all have their strengths and weaknesses; however, if I knew years ago what I know now, I’d likely have learned Ruby/Rails earlier.
I totally agree with you …. PHP is the king in the Web-based projects…
Let’s stop arguing about this comparison and see around you in nearly every website you hit daily … which language are they using … Facebook, Wikipedia,Yahoo,YouTube…etc
is not Yahoo big enough for you to believe in PHP.They make the change and move to PHP 9 years ago !!!
Nearly all supporting forums in nearly every aspect is written in PHP …
PHP is everywhere, free, a huge supporting community that I don’t think any other language can beat it …
By the way … try writing those words on google and compare the no of results only !!!
php language
java language language
ruby language
Simply great!!
Nice post and comments… I really want to say one line,
“A skilled/experienced programmer is required to make a language secure, Because each language having some set of limitations, we can’t figure out a language to be insecure instead of blaming a unskilled programmer”

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