Picking Your Tech Stack: PHP vs Python, RoR and Others

PHP vs Python or Ruby? This has become one of the most debated questions in recent times when choosing a tech stack for your software project. When you are a business owner contemplating web application development, the question of what programming language and tech stack should be used is bound to plague you.

When you choose to go down the web development path, you want to pick a technology that would likely last for years beyond the inception of your project.

Irrespective of whether you choose a website builder, hire an in-house developer or decide to hire a custom software development company to meet your development needs, the first thing you need to finalize is the programming language. Here is a detailed comparison of all three programming languages based upon a number of different characteristics to help you choose the right technology that best meets your needs.

1. Relevance and Recent updates

Ruby and Python are often touted as more recent are relevant programming languages as compared to PHP, but in reality, all three of them happen to be legacy languages. Python was released in 1991, followed by PHP in 1994 and Ruby in 1995. PHP started out as a general purpose programming language which eventually went on to become arguably the most popular server-side scripting language today.

If you’re going by which has had the biggest changes to its basic syntax and implementation in the last two years, PHP is the newest hands-down.

The latest PHP version 7.3 was released in December 2018. Since the release of PHP7  in 2015, PHP is gaining traction once again. The bugs that were detracting the developers (inconsistency, slower speed) have now been fixed and PHP has just gotten better with the newer versions.

Verdict: When it comes to programming languages, PHP is ruling over Python and Ruby in terms of recent updates.

2. Market adoption

Majority of websites have chosen to hire PHP developers to build their web applications. In terms of total market share, PHP clearly dominates Ruby and Python when it comes to server-side programming. A reason for this may also be because of the fact that the popular content management systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are scripted in PHP. Other than these, PHP also boasts of websites like Wikipedia, Mailchimp and Flickr.

Python on the other hand is the popular language primarily for machine learning and natural language processing. It is popularly used on the web for making web apps and APIs. Its popularity as a programming language for websites rose when it chosen to develop Google products like YouTube which was followed by its widespread adoption. Today a number of web applications like Spotify, Instagram, Dropbox, Reddit, etc. use Python as their core programming language.

Ruby also has its share of websites and web applications. It has been the programming language originally for Twitter and still continues to be the language in which web applications such as Github, Groupon and Hulu are programmed.

Verdict: PHP has the largest market adoption in web development followed by Python and then Ruby.

3. Compatibility with major operating systems

PHP is capable of seamless integration with all the major operating systems like Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Unix and Solaris. Python, on the other hand, is compatible only Windows and Mac OS X while Ruby faces compatibility issues with Windows after a period of time.

Additionally PHP supports the most commonly used web protocols like which makes it easier for the web application developed to interact with other applications that use these protocols and ensures hassle-free deployment over other web servers.

When it comes to technology stacks, LAMP stack further simplifies the web app development with PHP. LAMP is an abbreviation of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP and works well for dynamic web applications. It can be combined with other open source software packages which result in high flexibility and customization. The other variations of LAMP include MAMP Mac OS), WAMP ( Windows OS), and XAMPP (which runs on Linux, Windows and Mac making it truly cross-platform).

Python/Django is the tech stack which uses Python as the programming language and Ruby on Rails is the web framework that is written in Ruby.

Verdict: PHP is truly cross-platform programming language that runs smoothly across all the major operating systems.

Related: Flutter vs React Native: We Help You Decide What’s Best.

4. Performance and Speed

PHP 7 and Ruby both run on JIT engines which makes the development speed considerably faster than Python. While the versions before the launch of PHP 7 were quite slow and lagged behind, PHP 7 and the versions after that are typically three times faster than a program written in Python.

The Jit engines in PHP and Ruby improve the code execution speed of the web application. Behavioral studies show that the users tend to abandon the web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to get loaded. This comes as a huge advantage while striving for quick loading web pages which are a necessity in the current times.

The biggest advantage PHP has over Ruby/Python is return types which result in faster code execution and hence gets an edge over the other programming languages when it comes to performance.

Verdict: PHP, after the release of PHP 7 is the best bet for developing fast loading web applications. The next best option would be Ruby which not only has fast code execution but also results in faster development, followed by Python.

5. Cost-effectiveness

PHP ranks among one of the most popular programming languages for web development and hence has a greater number of resources available, bringing down the costs associated. As a business owner, if you are short on monetary resources, PHP gives you great incentive. While all three programming languages are open source, the cost of hiring developers varies significantly.

Due to higher competition, hiring a PHP developer results in acquiring an equally talented and experienced resource at lower costs. The remuneration rates when hiring Ruby developer or Python developer are higher due to the lesser resources available. Python is a programming language that has been developed keeping the coder in mind and hence has a low learning curve. PHP development is also easier to start from scratch as compared to Ruby which is a tougher programming language to master.

The hosting costs also vary significantly between PHP and Ruby with the costs rising significantly upwards in case of the latter. Finding a hosting that supports a Ruby on Rails application is going to come with a hefty price tag compared to PHP hosting and this adds to the overall development and maintenance costs as well.

Verdict: PHP is hands down more cost effective compared to Python and Ruby.

Related: Ruby on Rails vs PHP: The Top Choice For Your Web Application.

6. Support

PHP and Python both have staggering support from the developer community. When it comes to repositories and libraries, PHP takes the crown. It has a large pool of developers and online resources. The number of questions on PHP and Python on online resources like StackOverflow are also more numerous than Ruby which is directly indicative of greater resource availability for PHP.

The community for the Ruby framework – Ruby on Rails is super passionate. There are more questions on the framework than there on the language itself. There are also niche communities with high traction focussed solely on Ruby on Rails. Because of dedicated individuals and passionate community support, the framework has a strong market value.

Between PHP and Python, it is difficult to pick a clear winner because both have thriving community support. Python is the favourite of academics because it dominates the machine learning space while PHP is largely favored by masses for web development.

Verdict: PHP ties with Python in terms of community support and documentation available with Ruby framework coming a close second.

7. Scalability

PHP is a dynamically typed language which may result in difficulties while scaling if your team is not experienced enough. As the application grows larger and more complex, tracking down the errors and fixing them becomes a tough task.

Python is the language of choice when it comes to building scalable websites and applications. Python/Django is the most favored framework for building a prototype or minimum viable products (MVP) and getting them to scale. Python code is more readable as it follows a strict syntax whereas, in case of PHP, there exists a lot of subjectivity in the code depending on the developers. Python is also a beginner-friendly programming language which ensures ease of scaling of the applications developed.

Ruby on Rails is another great choice by web development companies for faster deployment of web apps that scale faster. It facilitates quick development by the use of its repository of gems – library integrations. The stack allows for quick scalability and has backend compatibility with MySQL.

Verdict: Python/Django ranks as the best option to build highly scalable web applications while Ruby on Rails is the framework of choice if you need a faster time to market.

Summing up

The web is baked into PHP’s DNA. You can straight up embed it in HTML. You can’t really do that in Python or Ruby. Python and Ruby require frameworks (Django and Rails) to give you reasonable web-oriented functionality. PHP does not. It has web framework-like utilities baked into its standard library.

The way a PHP application is served also makes more robust. If the request bombs, only that request bombs. There isn’t an application running that can crash out and needs to be restarted as you get with Ruby and Python.

The widespread availability of resources, robust performance and speed and widespread community support makes PHP the programming language of choice when it comes to website and web application development. There are also a large number of frameworks available to facilitate faster application development using PHP like Laravel, Symfony and CodeIgniter. These make the development of responsive websites and applications easier and faster.

Python and Ruby also have powerful frameworks that ramp up the software development life cycle. Python has Django, Flask, Pyramid, etc. while Ruby on Rails is the most popular Ruby framework apart from Sinatra and Padrino.

The choice at the end of the day comes down to what your actual project requirements are!

If you are looking to hire PHP developers to launch your experience-rich and responsive website or web app, feel free to request a quote from us. Our team of award-winning and highly qualified PHP developers would partner with you in successful development and deployment of your website.

Vinati Kamani

Dr Vinati Kamani writes about emerging technology and its application across industries for Arkenea. She is an avid reader and self proclaimed bibliophile. When Vinati is not at her desk penning down articles or reading up on the recent trends, she can be found travelling to remote places and soaking up different cultural experiences.

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