HTML vs PHP – What Are The Differences?

Both HTML and PHP have been around for 20+ years and millions of people were working with them, using almost every variation of code possible. They are two of the most well-known web based languages.

Today, we are going to put them head to head to see how they do in the ring. It will be an interesting technical brawl with an exciting outcome. So, to start things off on the right foot we’ll create a detailed description of them. Once that is done, we’ll note the conclusions and the key differences between them.

Let’s get to it!

What is HTML?

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language, which is a computer language for creating websites and content on the Internet. It is one of the basic building blocks of the World Wide Web.

It is the language that has made the growth of the Internet possible as we know it today. Even if you only opened a single webpage in your lifetime, you’ve seen some instance of HTML, because every website on the Internet has it included in their source code. It is used to display a webpage as the creator intended.

The word HyperText refers to that it is text displayed on a computer screen, for example within a browser with hyperlinks and various digital media such as images. Markup refers to the special code tags that are used to format this text, enabling you to add colors or make the text bold or italic.

So, HTML tells the web browser how to display the contents (text, images) of the webpage to the user.

How Does it Work?

The HTML language is based around tags. Tags are words surrounded by brackets and implement a specific function. It looks like this:

<tag> This is how HTML tags work </tag>

There is always a beginning and an ending tag. Everything you place between the two tags will be displayed according to the tags function. Here is an active example:

<p> This is an example of a paragraph of text. It will be displayed as a paragraph within the webpage. This is how text is formatted and individual paragraphs are displayed. </p>

Tags are the elements that separate average text from HTML code. Different tags have different functions and you can use them to make a lot of cool stuff happen on the webpage. These tags won’t appear on the webpage for the user, but their effects will.

Learning HTML is fairly easy. It requires a few days of reading, looking through codes of what you want to make and a bit of practice. The very basics can be understood within an hour. But creating good websites with HTML requires a more practice and skill.

Who Created HTML?

HTML was created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1991. He was passionate about the idea of people sharing and viewing information anywhere around the world through HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) and the use of URLs (Uniform Resource Locator). These connect one resource to another which creates the streamlined address system that makes viewing every web page possible on the Internet.

Tim Berners-Lee was the founder of the World Wide Web as we know it.

Since then HTML has become a formal recommendation of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and has been standardized and developed further. The most advanced version of HTML is HTML 5.

What is PHP?

PHP, also known as Hypertext Processor is an open source scripting language used to create dynamic webpages. It is one of the most popular server-side scripting languages for web development today.

PHP is embedded within a webpage, together with HTML. It is used to process information and perform operations that are described in the PHP script. This processing takes place before the webpage is displayed to the user. Most of the processing on a webpage, such as the search functions and just about anything that has to do something with information exchange is done via PHP. You can do things like add the current date and time, gather information from a database, add widgets, a search box and a lot more.

It is a server-side language, meaning that it isn’t processed on your computer. Your computer only requested a page form and received the information from the server.

Its biggest strength is that it is compatible with a lot of different types of databases. PHP is also able to talk across various networks by using HTTP, HTTPS, IMAP, NNTP, IMAP and POP3.

PHP is also relatively easy to learn and programmers who have experience with Perl, C or C++ will get used to it with absolute ease. There is also enough documentation available to help you with any questions. If not that, then there’s a vast amount of Q and A’s in which people have come across most problems a couple of times already. But it will take a relatively longer time to learn PHP, than HTML, but you’ll still have to learn HTML in order to use PHP properly.

PHP is open source and is constantly being improved by the community that patches and fixes up just about any bugs they come across. Until 2014, PHP evolved without any written formal specification. It only had a formal PHP specification for the last 3 years. Being open source, there are no license fees for using it.

PHP scripts load and run fast without slowing any other processes down, because it works in its own memory space.

Although the main focus of PHP is server side scripting, you can make it do a lot more. It can be used for Command line scripting, writing desktop applications, project management tools, graphical user interfaces or websites.

The Key Differences Between HTML and PHP

HTML isn’t a programming language; it is a markup language that is used to create the structure of a webpage. PHP however is a full-blown programming language that is used to create most of the advanced functionality you see on modern webpages.

Without PHP, it would be impossible to run all the fancy websites such as online stores, registries and just about any site that works with dynamically changing content. Most of these websites use databases that HTML isn’t able to handle. With PHP we are able to generate images on a website, manage file uploads and downloads, send emails and respond to them automatically or even generate individual webpages. Trillions of things can be done with PHP and we can be thankful to have it, but they wouldn’t be possible without HTML.

To get things straight, the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is a markup language that we use to build and develop web pages. Basically HTML can only be used to develop static webpages that look the same every time you open them. We can use CSS to add a unique and colorful design to a webpage and finally, we use PHP to add data processing features and any kind of dynamic function we require. We always use it to help serve the user’s needs better.

If we use the analogy of a car, HTML builds the structure and framework, CSS builds the bodywork and PHP builds the engine of the car.

PHP is server-side scripting language that is used to produce dynamic web pages. Developers use PHP in addition to HTML by embedding PHP code into the HTML source file.

It is also important to mention that the output of a PHP script will be HTML. You can also create sections of the website with it. With the use of PHP you can dynamically change various aspects of a website instead of viewing a static HTML webpage all the time.

In the end, PHP files are the same as HTML files, but they can include both HTML and PHP in their code. When the end user opens a PHP webpage, he only gets access to the HTML elements within that webpage.

Because of the many features PHP has to implement, its code has to have proper structure. Unlike HTML, where you can put in anything you want and it will still create an output. PHP is more complex so it won’t give you an output if something is not right in the syntax of the code or the logic.

Major Similarities Between PHP and HTML

These two separate languages were designed to handle development on the two opposite ends. HTML handles the front end of development, while PHP handles the back end. Yet both of them have their share of similarities as follows:

  • Both HTML and PHP is compatible with most browsers.
  • Both HTML and PHP have a huge number of developers working constantly to improve them and to use them in their web development endeavors.
  • Both HTML and PHP integrate with AJAX for dynamic webpages.

When Should You Use Which?

HTML is used to develop the client side of a website. PHP is used for server-side programming so it’s safe to say that you can use them on the same project.

HTML is designed for organizing and controlling all the content on the website and building how the website is going to be displayed. PHP works in the background, the back end of the website, to run the logic that powers and provides the content your HTML website is displaying.

So, any website you’re building will require HTML and you can combine it with PHP to create the backend. The two of these technologies working together will make your dynamic website come to life.

Final Conclusion

It’s already fairly obvious that there isn’t a match happening between HTML and PHP as they can’t create today’s unique and dynamic webpages without each other. Without PHP, HTML pages would only look good, providing users with some text and pictures. Without HTML, PHP wouldn’t be able to make use of all its complexity and processing power. So the PHP vs. HTML match isn’t a fight to the finish, because the two of them would only walk off peacefully to the bar without even thinking about fighting.


David Cross

David is the chief editor at WebHostingMedia right from the beginning. He has a great passion for building and managing websites and creating helpful content. He is also interested in programming - currently learning python.