PHP vs Java — Which One Will Make a Difference for Your Project?
May 17, 2020

We continue our showdown series of articles comparing programming languages, frameworks, and technologies. This time it’s the battle of Java vs PHP, to help you out with making the right choice for your software project.

Ground truth is that normally you don’t label programming languages as either good or bad, just like there is no one-size-fits-all language for every solution, but there are languages that are more suitable for certain tasks than others. Since both Java and PHP platforms are good choices for web development, picking one over the other is a tough task for most programmers.

In our article, we are going to take a closer look at the key differences between PHP and Java, highlighting some criteria and putting in comparative tables to help you define the use cases for which either PHP or Java is a perfect match.

As usual, we start with the basics.

A Java Refresher

Java is an all-purpose object-oriented programming language originally designed for web app development. It is also highly popular when you need to create an Android application or set up and maintain an Internet of Things ecosystem.

The good things about Java that contribute to its popularity are that Java is an open-source language and can be launched on all platforms. This means developers get free access to the platform capabilities and may create an application that can be further launched on a personal computer or distributed across a network. You can also build a small application module based on Java and use it further as part of a webpage.

A PHP Refresher

PHP, an acronym standing for Hypertext Preprocessor, is an open-source scripting programming language that is commonly used for backend web development. This platform would be a great choice for those starting out in web programming because of its plain and straightforward coding methods. At the same time, this language suits the needs of experienced developers due to a large set of sophisticated features that PHP provides.

The mechanism of PHP code implementation includes several stages. First, the source code is executed on the server, then the server generates an HTML file and sends it to the client side. This mechanism distinguishes PHP from, for example, the client-side JavaScript language. Moreover, the PHP platform includes a variety of free open-source libraries, which helps programmers integrate most of the popular databases into web apps built with PHP. Since the platform is based on HTML, using it is a great choice when your task is to create dynamic web pages.

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PHP vs Java: Performance Comparison

Just to make this Java vs PHP battle consistent and fair, our comparison will hinge on the criteria that are most important for web development.

Execution

Comparing PHP 7 vs Java, we can say that both languages are open-source and object-oriented. However, the first one is a server-side scripting language initially created to develop dynamic web pages, which has greatly expanded its scope by now. As PHP is an interpreted language, it is executed as you go. How does it work? A specific Interpreter gets each line of the source code, then translates it into a machine language, after which the machine launches it.

Java is also used for dynamic web app development but it is a non-special compiled programming language. The main feature of Java is programmers’ ability to write code once and then reuse it on different platforms where Java Virtual Machine (JVM) is installed. Since Java is a compiled language, it works differently from PHP: the once-written source code is converted into a binary language so that JVM can understand and adapt it to the device’s operating system.

Project duration and costs

In most cases, using Java for web development requires more time and money. Moreover, compared to PHP, the average hourly rates of Java developers are higher, while the workflow itself takes longer when a team codes on Java. At the same time, there are a number of sophisticated business tasks that can be more efficiently solved using Java instead of PHP with its lower prices and rates.

Due to this, you shouldn’t focus only on the lead time and the project costs when choosing Java vs PHP for web development, because such belt-tightening may reduce the quality of the final solution and cause some performance issues in the long term.

Security

Talking about Java vs PHP security for web development purposes, we can note that Java has more tools for assuring secure performance. However, Java may cause some issues with low-level programs, where it may disable particular software functions just to protect user devices. This is one of the reasons why applications made with PHP are able to operate on a shared hosting, while it is recommended to use dedicated hosting for Java-based apps.

Java also allows developers to protect client-server data exchange using specific transfer protocols. For that reason, a lot of web developers choose Java instead of PHP when developing websites or enterprise applications, as well as for any cases where data safety is crucial.

Performance speed

Regarding Java vs PHP page loading speed, pages made with PHP boast a faster download speed than similar pages made with Java. It’s no wonder as Java engines can run more performing tasks compared to PHP engines. At the same time, Java offers a lot of settings and capabilities to power up its performance. For instance, Java developers can improve page loading speed by not including any of the business logic or source code inside the Java pages, but using a tag library, such as JSTL, instead.

The speed of software developed with PHP is stable and high throughout all phases compared to Java-based apps, since each part of the source code is carried out right after the machine “reads” it. So if your task is not about processing big data and embedding any complex solutions, PHP becomes a better choice.

Toolset

Let’s take a look at PHP vs Java toolsets for editing, debugging, and packaging. While working with Java, developers have access to a variety of convenient code editors such as Netbeans, IntelliJ, and Eclipse, which increase the efficiency of managing large-scale software projects. In contrast, PHP developers can only install a plug-in for Eclipse and Netbeans.

Java developers are able to use all supported editors for debugging, while PHP programmers debug only with a Print statement. There are no specific packaging tools in PHP as the platform uses only unpacked files. At the same time, Java developers have access to lots of packaging tools such as Apache Ant, Maven, Web Start, and more.

Java vs PHP: Key Differences

In addition to the comparative criteria covered above, we made a shortlist of the key differences that can help determine the leader of PHP vs Java battle at least in the context of a single project. If right now you are in the middle of picking a proper web development platform that would match your needs, we hope the list below will help you.

  • The proper running of Java-based apps requires a Java Virtual Machine to be installed, whereas PHP-based apps can be launched on any device without extra requirements.
  • Java interacts with any API easily, whereas some earlier versions of the PHP language have a number of compatibility restrictions for working with particular APIs.
  • PHP-based web pages run faster than pages developed with Java.
  • PHP is easier to learn, compared to the Java programming language, so its learning and support costs less than those of Java.
  • To update Java, you’ll need to write a complex logic that requires a knowledge base of its own, whereas PHP is easier to update to a new version.
  • PHP is more common for developing with popular page design tools like WordPress and Drupal, while Java is mainly focused on creating elaborate business logic and object concepts.
Summing Up

To summarize the information above, we made a table with comparative parameters to give you some PHP vs Java benchmarks.

PHP vs Java: summing upPHPJava
TypeInterpretedCompiled
Work with objectsPHP is a server-side scripting language which supports OOP features only, due to which a lot of websites normally use PHP as an object-oriented programming languageJava is a fully object-oriented language with additional support of lambda expressions and anonymous functions
CostIt’s cheaper to learn, implement, and support PHPIt requires more time and money to learn, work with, and maintain Java
Project goalsMore suitable for small and medium software projects; also for creating dynamic web pagesJava is preferred for large software projects
ExecutionPHP is executed directly on the serverJava is executed on a client’s device
Loading speedFaster than JavaSlower than PHP
ToolsetPHP has a limited development toolset with a focus on design tools, like in Drupal or WordPressA rich set of tools for editing, debugging, and packaging

We hope that this article has helped answer the most burning questions you had about Java vs PHP programming languages and would make your web development easier and more straightforward. Thanks for reading and, as always, stay tuned for more technology matchups and other helpful content.

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