PHP vs Node.js – The Epic Battle of Server-Side Scripting

The World Wide Web is an ever changing playground of technology. Developers have a lot of great choices when it comes to creating their applications, especially server-side developers.

There were days when things were much simpler. PHP managed all the server-side tasks and JavaScript was used to handle tiny details in the web browser.

14 years have passed after the creation of PHP, when some dude discovered that he could get JavaScript to run on a server and there was no need to use PHP. Suddenly everyone started using JavaScript on their servers.

Since then, both languages went through a lot of development and have been improved and expanded in many ways. Choosing one cannot decide which one is better than the other because it is choosing among two excellent options. Some developers prefer the simplicity and the purity of code that the strict Node.js offers, while others would trust PHP for its stability and huge knowledge base.

Both PHP and Node.js have their fair set of advantages and disadvantages, just like anything out there. In this article, we seek to make a distinction between the two by taking their core features and various other aspects into account.

Let’s see how they match up!

Read: HTML vs PHP

What is PHP?

php logoPHP (Hypertext Processor) is a server-side scripting and general purpose programming language and is primarily used for web development purposes. It is an object-oriented programming language which allows programmers to tackle creative tasks a lot more easily.

It was created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994 and has been a pillar to web development ever since. PHP can be embedded into HTML code and has enabled the development of dynamic webpages once it has hit the Internet. It is also the core of many content management systems, web frameworks and web template systems. Today, most e-commerce websites and online businesses operate using PHP.

Being a server-side scripting language, it doesn’t run on the client’s computer. PHP scripts are executed on the server and the results of their performed operations are returned to the user.

PHP is open source and can be used freely and easily by anyone. You can also call it the web-development language of the people!

PHP is used on Linux Servers most of the time and its syntax is similar to C and C++, with files containing PHP scripts having the .php extension.

Right now, PHP has an 82.6% market share, making it one the most widely used server-side scripting language on the Internet, while JavaScript is second behind it. This doesn’t mean that JavaScript is better, because it has been developed 14 years later and it also continues to gain popularity.

PHP is relatively easy to learn and has plenty of support. Over 20 years of its usage gathered enough Q and A’s to help you solve just about any problem you come across. Someone else has already solved the problem you’re trying to tackle. It is a very efficient coding language with lots of documentation to help developers.

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Pros of PHP

  • It is deep code based and a lot of Content Management Systems such as Joomla, Drupal, WordPress and Magento is written purely in PHP.
  • Simplicity, which allows it to run as HTML if you change the extension. You can add PHP to any code, simply by using the PHP tag.
  • Deployment dependency exists and there is no compiler or processor.
  • PHP is the most commonly used language among hosting providers because there are no compatibility issues when you’re trying to make an application run live.

Cons of PHP

  • PHP is slower than newer competitors like Node.js.
  • It is ideally suited for e-commerce applications but not for more large scale applications.
  • Its open source and free to use which means that people can explore and exploit some of its weaknesses.

What is Node.js?

node.js logoNode.js is an open-source server-side runtime environment (platform) designed to create various server tools and applications. Most of Node’s basic modules are written in JavaScript but it isn’t a JavaScript framework. It is based on Google Chrome’s V8 JavaScript engine which makes it execute code at an incredible speed.

A lot of corporations use Node.js for their products such as, Walmart, Yahoo!, GoDaddy, IBM, Netflix, LinkedIn, PayPal and Microsoft.

Node.js seeks to optimize the scalability and throughput of web applications and real-time web that have a lot of input/output operations.  The ultimate goal of Node.js is to build fast and scalable network applications. It is based on an event-driven, non-blocking I/O architecture, which makes it lightweight and efficient.

Node.js also has a huge library that makes tackling various problems and developing web applications a lot easier. There are thousands of open-source libraries for Node.js thanks to its large developer community. They have also developed server frameworks that help by accelerating the development of applications.

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Key Features of Node.js


Node.js runs on Google’s V8 JavaScript execution engine which doesn’t implement code in real time, rather compiles the JavaScript source code into native machine code.

Event Driven and Asynchronous

Every API in the Node.js library is asynchronous (non-blocking). This means that no Node.js server will ever wait for an API to return data. The server will call the next API and move to it. A notification mechanism for events of Node.js helps the server get a response from the preceding API call.

Package Management

The Node.js server platform has the NPM as its pre-installed package manager. It is designed for installing and managing third-party Node.js programs.

Single Threaded Yet Highly Scalable

Node.js has a single threaded event model with event looping. This means that this event mechanism helps the server respond to other traditional servers that create limited threads for handling requests.

No Buffering

Node.js application output data in chunks instead of ever buffering any data.

If you’re considering using Node.js for your future project, you should do so if you want to build I/O bound Applications, JSON APIs based Applications, Data Streaming Applications, Single Page Applications.

Pros of Node.js

  • It’s a lot faster than PHP thanks to its event callback mechanism.
  • It has separate modules for every operation
  • It is very popular and fresh
  • It can used as a single and as a multi-threaded application
  • It’s easy to learn and anyone who has experience in another platform can easily adapt to Node.js.
  • It has a callback structure that enables passing logic between calls.

Cons of Node.js

  • Node isn’t suitable for processor intensive operations

Major Differences Between PHP and Node.js

Different Runtime Environments

You can embed both PHP and JavaScript into a HTML file and both of them will need an interpreter to run. Most servers already feature a PHP interpreter, because it can be installed as a simple plugin. Node.js is a runtime environment made for JavaScript and is powered by the V8 engines.


PHP is a lot simpler than Node.js. All you need to set up a server is a “.php” file with your code in it. Any server that has the PHP interpreter installed and your file will be able to displayed in a browser.

It isn’t hard to set up a Node.js server but it does require more lines of code and a basic understanding of callback functions and closures. PHP doesn’t require a client up in order to run.


Most server-side languages use multi-threaded blocking I/O to carry out multiple tasks at once. JavaScript uses a few interesting tricks for achieving its event-driven, non-blocking I/O execution mode. It uses a single execution thread.

PHP has its own way to achieving asynchronous processing, as it is a mature programming language.

Raw Speed

It’s harder to write JavaScript code, but when it’s done, your Node.js will take off with absolute speed. Its processing speed is almost twice as fast as PHP’s.

Coding Speed

Writing in PHP is much faster for many developers as there is no need for compliers or deployment or any JAR files or processors. All you need is your favorite editor and some PHP files. PHP is the best when it comes to banging a project together as fast as possible.

What Projects Should You Use PHP or Node.js for?

You should use PHP in the following cases:

  • If your project involves CMS software like Magento, Durpal or WordPress
  • If you’re using servers Like MariaDB, Sybase, MYSQL and Oracle
  • Software such as Linux, MySQL, PHP or Apache

You should use Node.js in the following cases:

  • When working with machine learning and data analysis
  • If you’re working with dynamic single page applications
  • Server-side technologies such as Express.js and MongoDB
  • If you’re working with front-end technologies such as Ember.js, Angular JS, jQuery, ReactJS


There are a number of distinctions between these two programming languages but neither of them could be pronounced as better than the other. Both of them have their own set of advantages and disadvantages; this article is made to only give you a taste of both of them and to give you a few keywords and phrases to work with.

Hope this helped you put everything into context and that you’ve found this article useful and enjoyable!


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.