Python vs PHP: Which One Is Better?

Python vs PHP sounds like the latest Marvel action flick where Python is the bad guy, but in fact, it’s a battle between two different adversaries. They’re both contenders for the crown of Top Backend Programming Language (which isn’t a real competition, but we wish it was), which is becoming a very hotly contested space. Backend development is now a very in-demand discipline, partly because almost all new businesses with an online presence are looking for a website and mobile app, and they both rely on server-side development to accomplish those ends. Here’s a few names that you may be familiar with:

  • Python: is a high-level object-oriented programming language, with built-in data structures, dynamic typing and binding. It’s a great choice for rapid application development.
  • PHP: stands for Hypertext Pre-Processor. Its popularity stems from the fact that it’s been around for a while, it’s free and it’s pretty efficient when you stand alongside rivals like Microsoft’s ASP. Users who are on particularly technical appreciate the fact that it makes their webpages easier to manage.
  • JavaScript: often abbreviated to JS and hugely popular. It’s one of the Web’s core technologies.
  • Ruby on Rails: is an object-oriented development tool written in Ruby which is used to create web applications. It’s good for simplifying common repetitive tasks and has many other appealing attributes.
  • Dot NET: is a software framework developed by Microsoft.

There are more names than these out there of course, is anyone starting out in development will know. In fact, one of the things that hits beginners is the wide variety of languages for both front and back-end applications. There are so many out there offering so many different features that it can be hard to know when to start, so, we’ve written PHP vs Python as a way of narrowing the choice down a bit for you. These two stand out from the rest and both have enthusiastic fanbases that sing their praises. Fans are all very well, but objectively, which of them should you invest your time and energy into learning, and what criteria will help you choose? Let’s take a look:

  • Ease of Learning: Time is money, and you’ll have to invest a lot of time to become proficient in any new language. So, the question here is, “PHP vs Python, which lets you get up and running sooner?”
  • Community: every application has its own crowd of cheerleaders, and many of them offer free help and advice to everyone else in the community. That’s why it’s important to know that the software you’re learning is popular. Someone will know how to fix your bugs much faster if it is.
  • Documentation: the programming language or framework needs to be well documented. Otherwise learning will be more difficult.
  • Costs: you do have to pay for some these languages and how much you pay is bound to affect your choice.
  • Libraries: a popular language will be popular partly because it has plenty of library support, which makes your job as a developer that much easier.
  • Performance Server-side apps have a lot thrown at them, so they need to be highly efficient.
  • Choice of web frameworks: a good selection of web development frameworks is absolutely essential if you want to build the best.
  • Debugging: a greater availability of debugging tools is an advantage. More time spent weeding out problems means less time spent on building.

PHP vs Python – let’s compare

Ease of Learning

Python is the simpler of the two to learn. It’s an all-round programming language and you can become proficient at it quite quickly. In fact, Python is such a quick learn that it’s the favoured choice for most entry-level programming courses. You can write a Python program with less code than other languages, so it’s no wonder that professionals have two it. It uses simpler syntax and you don’t need a degree in Martian in order to read it. Which is to say that it’s easily understandable compared to many other languages.

PHP struggles in comparison because it was created with web applications in mind, and these tend to have a higher level of complexity than programs that only have to run on one device. That’s why PHP is more complicated and so more difficult to learn.

Programmers don’t want to take too much time away from their day-to-day work while they pick up a new language. Python is more beginner friendly than PHP, which has a pretty steep learning curve. The PHP developer community does all it can to make life easier for new programmers, but that’s never going to be enough to close the gap with Python. So it’s the winner here in the battle of Python vs PHP.

Community support

Python and PHP both offer great community support. PHP has been around longer in the web application arena, so there are now loads of seasoned developers ready and waiting to offer their advice and insights.

Python may be newer, but it also has a very engaged and knowledgeable community of developers, so new Python applications are being developed by them all the time. This means that the question of Python vs PHP sees them fairly evenly matched here.

Big-name users like YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest use Python-based web apps, but Facebook’s back-end was built on PHP, so it’s clear to see that both are equally capable of delivering world-class results.


Both languages benefit from comprehensive documentation, which means you can find tutorials in a whole host of different locations on the web. The Python vs PHP battle ends in a draw once again on the question of documentation. Both languages are equally well served by a lot of great resources.


“Python or Php” debate also sees them evenly matched on the question of cost. Both are open source and free, and the only question about competition is how far ahead of their paid competitors they are.

Library support

Where Python vs PHP does have a winner is with library support. Python has much better-developed library support for almost all app types. PHP is behind in this regard but it does benefit from a really good repository called Packagist.

This is an important consideration because an increasing number of new and established businesses want web applications backed by Machine Learning. Python offers some great Machine Learning libraries such as TensorFlow, Keras, Theano, Scikit Learn, and more. They are fast, using them is intuitive and they offer fantastic integration with the web framework. This means that on this question, the Python vs PHP has a clear winner in Python.


PHP 5.x versions tended to drag their heels, but PHP 7.x is a real flyer in comparison to the average Python program, chewing through tasks up to 3 times as quickly. Speed often becomes an important factor in performance-critical applications, and any differences can add up to a huge difference in performance when you’re processing millions of hits a day for a bank, for example. Dealing with that much information only 33% as fast as your rival is just not tenable. The PHP vs Python result in this case goes to PHP. (But of course, it’s worth remembering that for simpler situations, that latency difference between the two would be much less noticeable.)

Selection of Web Frameworks

The likes of Django, Flask, Pylons, and Pyramid are some of the most commonly used Python web frameworks, while Codeigniter, Zend, Laravel, and Symfony are the equivalent PHP-based ones.

Django has a well-deserved reputation for speed, scalability, security, and ease-of-use. It’s popular because of its robustness and power, and a lot of applications depend upon it.  Codeigniter and Laravel are the equivalent frameworks for PHP applications.

The Python vs PHP question results in another tie situation here, as both offer similarly impressive options. But it has to be said that rookie developers prefer Django for its ease of setup and because coding is quicker.

Tracking down bugs

PDB is the name of Python’s debugger, and it’s very good at its job. PDB is fairly simple to use, even for programmers who are just starting out. XDebug is the name of the equivalent for PHP. Both take a similar approach to debugging with breakpoints, stacks, path mapping, and so on. So, in the Python vs PHP race, both are neck and neck when it comes to debugging.

Python or PHP – Summary

So, in conclusion, these two languages offer similar performance and features, but Python looks to be the better choice overall. Which doesn’t mean that every veteran PHP programmer should convert to Python, but for those who haven’t been using it for as long, or those who are just starting out, it might be worth your while moving over to Python. Its ease-of-use and efficiency means that it looks set to eventually become the dominant force in back-end development, and that means employers are going to be expecting it. Anyone looking for longevity in their development career should consider learning Python.

One comment

  1. Thank you for your article. I couldn’t agree more with the takeaways from your article: Python is the future-proof choice that continues to gain in popularity, and learning it is especially advisable to the programming newcomers who are just starting out. A friend of mine and I recently published our own comparison of Python and PHP on the blog of STX Next—the largest Python software house in Europe. Appearances can be deceiving, though, since we didn’t exactly bash PHP top to bottom and conclude Python is always the better pick 🙂 Take a look if you’d like to read the article yourself:

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