The battle of Python vs PHP – What’s Better for your Web Application Development?

Python VS PHP

I’m sure everybody especially the programming lobby will agree with me when I say that comparing two programming languages has always been a daunting and tricky ask especially because there are always going to be cases in which one is going to be a way better option than the other.

For this occasion we are going to bring Python and PHP programming languages close to you and at the same time we are going to try to determine which one is better for programming a web application.

First, let’s see how both of these languages came into the picture and where they were applied for the first time.

A Brief History of Python

A fun fact about this programming language is that its name doesn’t have anything to do with snakes, although its logo looks like two snakes. It actually comes from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. Yeah, Python’s creator, Guido van Rossum was a big fan of this TV show.

The idea to create this programming language came to Guido van Rossum back in the late 1980s while he was working on the  “Amoeba” operating system at Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica (CWI). Back in those days Guido van Rossum was also engaged on a project to build the ABC programming language. This is when inspiration struck and he decided to design a simple scripting language that has all the best features of ABC and is appealing to UNIX fans.

Python ver. 0.9.0 was published back in February 1991. The next two major releases were published back in 2000 (Python 2.0) and 2008 (Python 3.0 – Python 3000).

A Brief History of PHP

When Rasmus Lerdorf wrote several scripts by using the C language, back in 1994, in order to track the visits to his online resume, he didn’t know that his “Personal Home Page Tools” will become hugely popular around the globe as PHP. He very quickly recognized the needs of programmers who were coding web applications, so after adding more functionality, he officially released the code for PHP Tools to the public, but keep in mind that this was just a suite of tools and it hardly resembled the PHP we use today. This happened back in 1995. At start PHP was used to in creation of dynamic web applications and it was capable of interacting with the database.

During the following months PHP code had gone through several complete makeovers. The build from April 1996 was the the most complete one by that time. For instance, it had support for mySQL, Postgres95 and DBM, but even then it went by the name PHP/FI.

The PHP as we know it today wasn’t there until students of the University of Tel Aviv, Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski, took PHP/FI and completely reworked it in collaboration with Rasmus Lerdorf.

The Use of PHP and Python

By now it is clear that both PHP and Python are programming languages, and that their creators had a totally different goal in mind when they were designing them. PHP was initially made to be a server side, backend developing tool, while Python is far more versatile and can be used for building things other than web solutions.

When it comes to syntax, many programmers say that Python is far cleaner than PHP, but from the point of the average internet user, one cannot tell the difference, because there are many large and well-known websites powered by both programming languages.

Let’s start with Python. Both Google and YouTube rely heavily on the powers of the Python programming language, and it seems that Python is handling the huge amounts of traffic on a daily basis without any problems. Online document storing? No problem, Python powers one of the world’s leading cloud platforms – Dropbox. This platform allows its users to share, store and sync their files across all devices and friends. And last but not least, Quora – the number one site to look for an answer to any question, is entirely powered by Python.

Many programmers believe that PHP is an abomination compared to other programming languages, but in reality, things are much different. There are many websites powered by PHP, and many of those have traffic that’s measured in hundreds of millions per day. The largest social media website in the world, Facebook, is powered by PHP. Another hugely popular social network is also PHP dependent – Twitter. According to W3Techs, Wikipedia is 3rd on the list of the most visited sites and it is also powered by PHP. It seems that PHP is still very popular and is capable of handling huge amounts of traffic without any delays and problems.

So what’s the Difference?

We have already mentioned that PHP was developed for web developers, and it is a scripting language that operates on the server side. On the other hand, Python is far more versatile and can be used for dozens of purposes other than web development.

Let’s start with security, as user information and data security are very often a topic in any IT related debate. Python is one of the most secure programming languages and as a stand-alone solution it can be used to write the most delicate pieces of software. PHP, on the other hand has several security issues and those have to be handled through the use of additional tools. Thanks to the large PHP community, many of those security issues are addressed really fast, followed by good solutions short afterwards.

Not so long ago, there were multiple website takedowns just because people didn’t use the appropriate functions in order to go around using an id parameter when querying a database:

$id = $_GET[‘id’];

$this->db->query(“SELECT * FROM pages WHERE id = ‘$id'”);

This is why PHP developers always have to be on the lookout for solutions that will make their code less hack-friendly.

Python is also more flexible than PHP, but this comes as no surprise, since PHP was strictly developed as web development program language. Thanks to the various third-party modules, Python provides many opportunities for those who decide to use it for developing web applications.

When you take a look at the PHP syntax, you can see that it strongly resembles the syntax of the C programing language, while Python is an extremely easy to read language, i.e. there are no dollar signs and -> like in the PHP code. This makes the Python code easier to skim through, especially when programmers have to debug code in big projects.

Python Strengths

As we’ve mentioned, while programming in Python, experts can use various third party modules in order to achieve some really interesting things. These modules are usually files with pre-written Python code and can contain functions, classes and variables. Furthermore, Python has true object orientation. When you add to this first class classes and functions, it is far superior to PHP. Some may argue this by stating that object orientation has been built from the ground up in PHP 5, but it is still far more complex to code in it than it is in Python.

When your app has to deal with specific resources that need to be closed reliably and concisely “with – as” Pythons statement will beat anything from PHP. Many of the PHP-oriented programmers emphasized the fact that Python cannot be embedded with HTML code, but this is no longer an issue. Module – mod_phyton, has got HTML embedding covered.

PHP Strengths

When discussing PHP advantages, we need to start from the statements. There are two awesome statements that PHP has and Python doesn’t. Those are “do-while” and “switch” statements. Also, the modifiers for methods and properties. You can use private, protected and public modifiers for both. Executing the protected method, one Thread at a time:

class ExampleThread extends Thread {
public function run() {
/* thread code */
if ($this->synchronized()) {


protected function exclusive() {
/* synchronized method */

$thread = new ExampleThread();
if ($thread->start()) {

This way, it is very easy to provide more functionality to multi-threaded objects.

Although Python may be more versatile than PHP when it comes to web application development, it is quite clear that at this moment PHP is leading as the premier language for web development, at least in terms of the number of available PHP developers on the market. The PHP community offers far more support than the Python community.

Also, PHP is far easier to get into then Python. This is why the prices of PHP developers are far more affordable than the prices of those who specialize in Python. That being said, if you are a company that needs to outsource some PHP coding, it is strongly advised that you check out the recommendations and time estimations from both options before you make any decisions, and do not make the decision solely based on pricing.

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