PHP vs Java: Which One to Choose for Web Development?

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Valentin Jercalau

Nov 2, 2022 • 8 min read
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When it comes to web development there is a pool of programming languages you can use to build your website. In this article, we compare PHP vs Java, two of the most popular programming languages for web development.

PHP and Java have adapted well to advances in web development technology. This has enabled them to become the programming languages of choice for many businesses building their web products. However, they each have a range of different features and pros and cons which can make them right or wrong for your web development project and business context.

Choosing the right tool for developing a business website is increasingly important, as it can help you increase revenue, build customer loyalty and establish your brand successfully. So, in this article, we are going to compare PHP and Java, so you can know when and why to choose each one for your projects.

First of all, let’s look at PHP.

What is PHP?

PHP (Personal Home Page or Hypertext Preprocessor) is a general-purpose scripting language geared toward web development. It started as an open-source scripting language, which evolved over the years. It added new features and became a widely used language across the world.

PHP contributed heavily to the development of the Content Management System (CMS) concept, with solutions like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupa being PHP-dependent. PHP use cases also include Yahoo, iStock Photo, Flickr, MailChimp, OpenCart, UberCart, Facebook, Slack, Wikipedia and Tumblr. So we can see how widely used it is by all kinds of businesses.

It is mainly used for web development, and can be useful for startups and companies which require fast, less corporate development ecosystems.

Pros of PHP

Low development costs

Cost is a key consideration for any business when it comes to web development. All PHP versions are free licenses, which contributes to lower costs for your business. Combine this with lower memory usage and general hardware demands, and the low cost of PHP is one of its key benefits.

HTML Interoperability

PHP can easily be integrated within HTML whenever needed to add dynamic logic on the frontend side of your website. This makes it very flexible and means you can make exciting, varied websites.

Extensive community support

Over 28 years since it first appeared, PHP has built up a huge developer community, with extensive documentation for others to use and take advantage of. This extra support makes PHP more stable and means your development team will always be able to find the information or tools you need.

Cons of PHP

Security

Compared to Java, PHP is not as secure. This is partly due to the fact that it is open source. That means that the ASCII text file is often easily available. It does however tend to fill any security gaps with new releases. Overall though if you have highly sensitive data, you need to plan around PHP’s security gaps.

Developer popularity

When it comes to the talent pool for a certain language, each business tries to focus on the technology stacks which are the most attractive for the developers, so that recruitment and maintenance of their applications go as smoothly as possible. PHP is a very popular programming language, but Java is slightly ahead. Approximately 39% of developers use Java, while only approx 26% tend to choose PHP.

Poor error handling

It is widely believed in the developer community that PHP doesn’t deal with errors very well. It is lacking in debugging tools, which you will need to fix issues with your code. It does have debugging tools, but not as many as other programming languages like Java.

What is Java?

Java is a JVM (Java Virtual Machine) language that was first introduced in 1995 by Sun Microsystems. Java has flourished since 1995 as a programming language that offers the big benefit of "writing once" and then "running anywhere". This means that a developer can write the business implementation of the code once (then the code will be compiled) and after that, the resulting "bytecode" will be interpreted on every platform that supports a Java Runtime Environment (JRE).

Java is used nowadays in a lot of big corporations for web development offering benefits such as reliability, automated memory management, big community, and much more. Java is used today by companies like Amazon, Netflix, Uber, Bolt, Google, eBay, and more.

Pros of Java

Security

Java comes with an entire software development kit (SDK) and a multi-platform runtime environment (JRE). This means you can embed important security concepts in the early stages of your web development and protect your data and systems. These security options are enhanced with each new version of Java, and is a big advantage for big corporations where security is a key metric and clear non-functional requirement.

Automatic memory management

Java comes with its own automatic memory management mechanism which covers most of the memory issues that may appear in a large-scale enterprise application. This makes it very valuable for scaling your web development and means it is ideal for big companies as well as startups looking to grow quickly.

Multiplatform programming language

If using a language compatible with multiple platforms is a non-functional requirement for your application or web development, then Java is definitely one of the options you should consider. Its two-step lifecycle mechanism (compilation followed by interpretation) is one of its core features. This makes Java really useful for making versatile web applications.

Popularity among developers

As already stated earlier Java has a better popularity among developers compared with PHP. The benefit of this is that it offers businesses access to a bigger talent pool when putting together web development teams.

Community Support

With over 25 years on the market, Java has developed one of the largest developer communities out there. As such there is a huge amount of support you and your developers can draw on for advice, tips and resources during your project.

Interoperability

Java has extensive interoperability with a lot of APIs and databases. This will sometimes decrease the cost of integration with different systems, helping with project budgets and timelines.

Cons of Java

Development cost

Not all versions of Java are free to use. Of course, this means potential higher costs for the business. Beyond the cost of the license, Java also leads to additional costs, as it normally results in larger hardware requirements for memory and CPU.

Verbosity of Code

Compared to PHP, Java has more ‘verbose’ code. This means that there will be more lines of code required in your development, which means more potential for bugs and errors.

Lack of native desktop look and feel

Developers need to use different language-specific tools to create graphical user interfaces in Java. Java can be weak when it comes to desktop user interfaces and user experience. There are lots of GUI builders available for your developers to use for this, but this will take extra time and research.

Wrapping up: when should you use Java, when should you use PHP?

As we compare these two programming languages, it is difficult to say which one is better suited for web development. They are both great tools, which is why they are so popular for businesses. It is more a case of ‘when to use them’ than ‘which one is best’.

For example, if you are a large enterprise building an application, you will need to focus on reliability, security and high load as core non-functional requirements. In this case, Java’s security, automatic memory management and interoperability will make it the best option.

On the other hand, if you’re in a startup, you will need to prioritize speed. In this case, you’ll need a lightweight, flexible programming language like PHP. PHP’s low development costs, easy learning curve and community support make it perfect for companies in this situation.

The flexibility of both of these web development programming languages also means they can be useful for a range of different scenarios. The speed and low costs of PHP might be useful for a big company testing a proof of concept, while a startup may need the higher security of Java if the project involves confidential data.

So it really depends on the nature of your project and the size and expertise of your team. If you want to know more about PHP vs Java or which programming language is best for you, speak to one of our friendly Netguru experts today.

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