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Language is rudimentary for transferring thoughts and logic when it comes to people-people or people-computer interfaces. Every spoken or visual language has their vocabulary and grammar, while computer languages have syntax and libraries. Just like the grammar in the spoken language is used to define sentence formation, the syntax defines the logic of the running program. Also, frameworks in web app development are like grammar check tools, as they handle low-level functionalities, leaving you free to focus on the high-level functionality.

There are multiple frameworks available in the market, with each performing best under individual use cases, i.e., there is no one-size-fits-all framework. For example, React and Angular are frontend frameworks built using JavaScript language, while Laravel & Node.JS are backend frameworks built using PHP and Javascript respectively. Depending on the backend language you choose for your web application development, you’ll be facing a unique set of benefits and challenges in terms of development time, costs, security, complexity, and scalability.

The Different Backend Web App Development Languages

Most popular websites and apps are currently developed using a handful of frontend and backend programming languages. Some of the most popular backend languages behind some of the well-known businesses are:


An object-oriented, class-based language that is built to run without as many implementation dependencies as possible. The Java code will work on any platform that supports Java without recompilation requirements upon compilation. Spotify and Twitter are two of the most popular platforms built with Java as the primary backend language.


It is a general-purpose interpreted programming language that supports functional, procedural, and object-oriented programming. Ruby is similar to spoken language and doesn’t rely on a variable declaration. Twitch and Crazy Egg are built using Ruby as the primary backend language.


Python is a high-level programming language that supports object-oriented and interpreted dynamic semantics. Reddit and Quora use Python as the server-side communication language.


One of the most popular backend languages, PHP is a general-purpose language designed for web development. PHP is open-source, platform-independent, and supports ODBC, SQLite, MySQL, and other major databases. In addition, the knowledge-sharing platform – Wikipedia and Popular email sending platform – MailChimp uses PHP to provide an outstanding user experience.


Javascript is not associated with the Java language; instead, it only follows Java’s syntax, name, and standard libraries. Javascript is a potent backend language that handles the data from the browser itself and supports third-party add-ons. For example, Netflix and Uber are built using Javascript as the base backend language.

Node.js is an open-source JavaScript runtime. For example, PayPal, eBay, & Godaddy use Node.js as their frontend and backend language. It is lightweight, and the development speed is heavily reduced, meaning the time taken for your applications to reach the market is significantly low.

Structured Query Language

SQL is mainly used for creating custom databases that fetch data based on a query, update, or reorganize any data. It is a high-level and easy-to-use programming language that stores data in large tables. For example, Netflix and Uber use SQL to suggest new shows to binge or book your next ride.

Companies opt for Node.js or PHP in the current competitive environment, as both are potent options for backend development. In addition, PHP is a longer-running technology, leading to a vast community of PHP developers. On the other hand, Node.js makes it possible to use Javascript for backend development, slowly raising its popularity and making its mark.

Node.js v/s PHP: Which should you choose?

Going by market shares, currently, 7,400,000 websites run on PHP compared to 129,000 websites using Node.js. PHP is an original backend language, while Node.js is a JavaScript runtime environment. So, there is a vast range of differences between both, but the differences are more refined when it comes to web app development.

Coding Ease

The more well-engineered the syntax, the lesser code lines a developer needs to input. For the same function, Node.js takes more code lines than PHP, as there is no need to utilize compilers or converters. However, in the case of Node.js, you only dabble in a single development environment. So the learning curve is comparatively lower for Node.js while you need to learn the LAMP stack to create apps in PHP.


PHP is a synchronous language, i.e., the code is executed line by line. On the other hand, Node.js is an asynchronous language, i.e., simultaneous codes are executed without waiting. So, applications developed in Node.js reduce the overall downtime and improve the user experience. In PHP, every module and function is executed in the code-specified order.

App Performance

When it comes to a web application, page load and seamless execution are two key performance indicators. Node.js offers a higher execution speed with a quick startup time. The concurrent execution allows different modules to have other beginning and completion times even if they’re using the same resource and executed in the same environment. By pairing your PHP web app with HHVM Virtual Machine, you can run them 75% faster, yet it is no match to Node.js.

Database Management

Your web app is incomplete without a relevant database. Depending on the database you use, whether MongoDB or MySQL, you need to select the right technology. Conventional databases store data hierarchically, while relational databases like MySQL store them on a giant table’s rows and columns. NoSQL databases like MongoDB stores data in formats such as documents, graphs, key pairs, and others.

PHP is compatible with conventional and relational databases, while Node.js works well with all three types. While PHP works with NoSQL databases as well, the integration process is lengthy, tedious, and complex. So unless you are working with a NoSQL database, PHP is helpful, but Node.js has a better edge.

Community Support

A robust community is pivotal for a language to thrive. People contributing to libraries and frameworks keep the technology relevant and fresh. Discussions on Github and Stackoverflow help developers to overcome their present challenges. From that perspective, PHP has been on the scene since 1994. With the sheer number of websites built on PHP, it is clearly the winner. Node.js is a growing sapling compared to the aged oak tree that is PHP and making progress recently. PHP has robust frameworks like Laravel, CodeIgniter, CakePHP, and Phalcon, while frameworks like Meteor, Derby, Express, and Sails, have helped Node.js expand quickly. When it comes to hosting support, most online hosting platforms support PHP-based applications better.

Request Handling

Technology needs to process client-side requests quickly using minimal resources and time. Thanks to the asynchronous processing, CPU and RAM usage is not wasted in an application built on Node.js. However, any unresolved error request can interfere with other requests leading to a pan-system error. PHP is resource-heavy as it can handle one request at a time, but there is no chance of pan-system errors.

Module Support

Modules help run sub-programs inside the actual program and help achieve a set of functionalities. Since the PHP community is well established, you have a richer library of modules, whereas the Node.js community is still growing, and quality-control systems are not foolproof.

When to choose Node.js?

  • Server-side proxy
  • Chatbots
  • Complex single-page applications (SPAs)
  • IoT devices
  • Queued I/O Inputs
  • Building Data Streaming Apps
  • Applications that require multiple concurrent processes

When to choose PHP?

  • When working with CMS
  • Where portability is a concern
  • Building applications using the LAMP stack
  • Easy to deploy and integration concerns
  • Dynamic webpages

Wrapping Up

While Node.js has the upper hand in most of the web development requirements, it is not edging PHP out. PHP has its own avenue where it shines. If app speed, learning time, better performance, NoSQL database, and client-side execution is your need, opt for Node.js. However, PHP is more suited for static web pages and working with features currently unavailable in Node.js.