The Definitive Comparison of Node.js vs PHP for Web Development

When it comes to back-end development, both PHP and Node.js are widely recognized as reliable options. However, as is the case with many areas of technology, there remains a degree of debate among the development community as to which of the two is the superior choice.

Node.js is a free, cross-platform runtime environment that enables developers to use JavaScript for both frontend and backend development. PHP is also a free and open-source scripting language, renowned for being one of the most influential technological advancements in recent times.

Which one do you think is superior? When developing a new server-side application, how do you decide between PHP and Node.js? What is it?

In this essay, we will compare and contrast the two, highlighting their respective strengths and weaknesses.

  • Performance
  • Development
  • Database
  • Hosting
  • Rapidity of execution
  • Theoretical foundations with real-world implications

First things first: let’s become familiar with Node.js and PHP.

Comparison Between Node.js vs PHP: An Overview

Rasmus Lerdorf developed the Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) scripting language in 1994, which is available under an open-source license. It has proven to be a great success since its inception, with a recent study showing that 78.9% of websites that utilize a server-side programming language do so use PHP.

Node.js is a free and open-source server-side framework that enables JavaScript to be run outside of a web browser. This framework provides support for JavaScript, allowing developers to create command-line tools and server-side scripting, which involves executing scripts on the server to generate dynamic web page content before delivery to the visitor’s browser.

Node.js is an initiative to standardise JavaScript-based web application development, created by Ryan Dahl in 2009 as a means of creating scalable and speedy applications. It has seen increasing popularity among developers in recent years.

When it comes to creating a backend, both PHP and Node.js offer distinct advantages. PHP is optimized for simplicity and adaptability, while Node.js is designed to be fast and provides alternative ways to structure data. To help you make an informed decision on the best technology to use for your project, let us explore a comprehensive comparison of the two.

Backend Development with Node.js vs PHP: A Detailed Comparison

In this comparison between PHP and Node.js, we will assess both platforms against the criteria mentioned earlier in order to determine which is more suitable for web development. Let us commence.

1. Performance

The rate of execution of a piece of code is a measure of its efficiency. It has a clear impact on crucial performance metrics such as fluidity and page loading times.

PHP performance can be optimized by experienced developers through utilizing specific projects and parameters. For example, Facebook has developed a framework called Hack that is compatible with PHP, with the primary aim of improving the speed of existing PHP programs. Additionally, the introduction of the new JIT support in PHP 8 will further enhance this acceleration.

In contrast, Node.js often has superior performance. Beyond developer expertise, Node.js offers a range of advantages in terms of performance over PHP, despite the fact that performance is largely dependent on the skill and experience of the development team.

Less Reliant on Others

A web server is essential for any PHP project to work, as it hosts the PHP interpreter which processes the code and delivers the output to the user. By comparison, Node.js does not require many dependencies. If you are using a server-side framework, rest assured that it will not hinder the performance of your application while still providing a broad spectrum of features.

No Translator

When compared to other frameworks of the same type, Node.js has been found to be more lightweight and agile. This has been determined by Google following their improvement of the JavaScript V8 engine, which is compiled, unlike PHP which is interpreted.

Code that has been compiled is in a language that is native to the CPU, so it can be run without any problems on the host computer.

At runtime, an interpreter converts interpreted code from its original form into CPU machine instructions. This translation process can lead to a reduction in functionality of the language.

Streaming Input/Output Driven by Events

PHP, one of the most widely used server-side languages, utilizes a blocking approach. If any data is required from a database, a request must be made, allowed to run its course, and then the next statement can be executed.

When using Node.js, you won’t waste time. It is possible to design callback functions that monitor processes and run many tasks in parallel.

The Best Uses of PHP

It is true that Node.js projects may be completed faster than those written in PHP; however, this advantage is not without drawbacks. The most significant difference is that web servers usually feature multithreaded capabilities, allowing them to process multiple requests simultaneously, while Node.js only supports single-threaded operations. Asynchronous programming also presents its own challenges.

Furthermore, PHP was developed with the web in mind, whereas other widely used programming languages such as Python and Java are multi-purpose. Consequently, it offers all the necessary capabilities for connecting with servers, HTML, and databases, thus reducing the amount of JavaScript code required for the front end.

Node.js outperforms PHP in terms of speed and provides a more consistent and concurrent experience for both developers and end users.

2. Development

PHP was designed with the intention of being used exclusively on the back end, thus limiting it to a certain range of tasks. It is part of the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Perl/Python) and so familiarity with CSS, HTML, and the ability to set up and interact with various systems is required for successful testing, building, managing, and designing of an online project. As one may come across unfamiliar systems, the learning curve can be more difficult. If these skills are not possessed, a team may need to be hired to cover the other areas.

Despite these drawbacks, PHP is thriving because its developers are always thinking of ways to enhance the language’s capabilities.

Node.js offers a comprehensive bundle of features which are already integrated into a single package, thus eliminating the need to refactor or re-write any existing code in PHP.

Node.js enables the construction of full backend models, however a reverse proxy (e.g., Nginx or Apache), an HTTP framework (e.g., Express.js) and a database (e.g. MySQL) are still required to commence development. By contrast, JavaScript is a full-stack development language able to independently achieve all the requirements necessary for the creation of web or mobile applications.

However, there are other considerations when it comes to progressing with web development. PHP is often favored due to its speed and user-friendliness. It can be coded more quickly than Node.js, as there is no need for converters or compilers. Additionally, PHP’s support for connecting to a SQL database means this can be done regardless of the hosting environment. However, this does come with a trade-off, as PHP projects tend to be slower than Node.js projects.

Node.js appears to present a challenge when installing frameworks and applications; however, its ability to reduce strain on the server results in increased efficiency and speed.

So, although PHP is fantastic when you need a quick solution, Node.js is the way to go for more complicated, sustainable, and efficient results.

It is generally accepted amongst experienced developers that Node.js and PHP are equally matched. Whilst Node.js’s package manager (NPM) provides an advantage, the languages have many similarities.

3. Database

SQL databases such as MariaDB, PostgreSQL and MySQL are frequently used in conjunction with PHP applications. While it is possible to employ NoSQL database systems with PHP, this is not recommended due to the lack of compatibility between the database system and PHP, as well as the slower processing time.

On the other side, Node.js is fully compatible with and optimised for:

  • Databases that use the Structured Query Language
  • Non-relational databases, including CouchDB and MongoDB
  • In-memory database graph systems, such as Neo4j

The NPM packages for the vast majority of these databases may be found in the npm registry.

Cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, and other forms of attack are a common occurrence with MySQL database systems. Due to the frequent combination of PHP and MySQL, any projects developed using PHP may be vulnerable to the same issues.

Node.js offers no vulnerabilities to NoSQL as it is designed to be resilient against injection attacks and other similar issues. Its innovative nature is what makes it so secure.

PHP is compatible with a range of database management systems, from mSQL and SQLite to NoSQL databases such as Redis, MongoDB and ElasticSearch. This flexibility allows developers to select the database that is most appropriate for their site, based on the criteria relevant to their project.

Node.js is the ideal option for creating a scalable online application that can efficiently and consistently access data from relational, conventional and NoSQL databases.

PHP offers access to a wider selection of database management systems, including non-relational and NoSQL databases. Although these provide more flexibility, they require more effort to implement.

4. Hosting

When comparing Node.js and PHP, hosting compatibility is an important factor to consider, as hosting costs are often determined by the range of solutions available. It is essential to ensure that the web application meets safety and performance requirements before selecting a hosting service.

Node.js offers a wide range of options to improve its performance. Joyent, the company responsible for its maintenance, provides a SmartOS system which helps to improve speed, facilitate deployment and debug processes. Nodejitsu and Heroku make it easy to develop Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) applications using Node.js.

PHP is responsible for the direct and indirect operation of over 80% of websites, making it one of the most widely used server technologies. Its versatility enables it to function with most leading hosting providers, and the LAMP stack can meet the requirements of many server configurations. Nevertheless, security concerns make it the less favorable technology stack when it comes to hosting.

PHP is the recommended choice for web development projects based on its widespread support among hosting providers. Node.js is a close second, but the differences between the two are minor and should not have any negative impact on the project. Security should be taken into consideration when making a decision.

5. Usefulness in Real Life

Node.js is advantageous for the development of real-time, data-intensive, distributed applications across multiple devices. It is commonly used in multi-threaded programming, web browsers, web applications and gaming servers.

Examples of this category include applications such as Netflix’s streaming service, Slack’s instant messaging, Coursera’s online education, Twitter’s social networks, PayPal’s fintech applications, Trello’s and Asana’s project management tools, Netflix’s gaming apps, live chats, and the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and applications which are data intensive.

Web development commonly utilizes PHP due to its design as a back-end language. This makes it compatible with existing frameworks, such as HTML, databases and centralized servers. Additionally, it is a favorable choice for Linux, MySQL and Apache projects.

When utilizing Content Management Systems (CMSs) such as Joomla or WordPress, PHP is often employed due to its swift implementation. In addition to being utilized in the development of online markets, PHP is also applied to create effective websites, email marketing systems and company or personal blogs.

MailChimp, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Tumblr and Flickr are widely recognized examples of successful PHP projects, showing the potential of combining PHP with a server.

Since their usefulness varies and depends on the kind of thing you’re making, there can be no clear victor.

6. Timing and Processing of Requests

As we have seen in this comparison, the systems in question all adhere to somewhat different principles while processing requests.

PHP’s code execution is asynchronous, resulting in a slower performance. Modules and functions are processed in the order they are specified in the code. As such, queries must be completed before the next one can begin.

  • File system requests are sent to the server through PHP.
  • The request isn’t read until the file system starts up.
  • The information is sent to the user’s device.
  • Handles the subsequent instruction or request.

Node.js is superior than PHP in terms of execution speed thanks to its V8 engine, asynchronous execution, and real-time server interaction.

  • When you use Node.js, it will make a request to the local file system.
  • Starts working on the next request as soon as the previous one is finished.
  • The server will provide the data to the client when the requested file has been opened and read by the operating system.

Because of this, Node.js is able to run more quickly than PHP, which has a more cumbersome loading process.

Winner: To handle heavy workloads, Node.js is used because it eliminates unnecessary downtime and provides data in real time.

Table Comparison Between Node.js and PHP

PerformanceCompilation of a LanguageConfused? Get an Interpreter.Node.js
DevelopmentAll the features you need, in a single bundle.
Implemented in JavaScript, which has the potential to serve as a full-stack language.
Works with a wide variety of other systems and may be easily integrated.
Quicker to implement in code.
NoSQL (hard to integrate) (hard to integrate)


Able to work with the vast majority of service providers
Fits with the LAMP technology framework
Usefulness in Real LifeMedia Streaming Services
Online Chatting Systems
Cyberlearning: The Future of Education
Networks, Social
Financial Technology Applications
Methods for Managing Projects
Mobile Apps for Gamers
Interactions in Real Time
Compatibility with widely used content management systems such as WordPress and Joomla
Online Shopping Malls
Methods of Advertising
Conditional on the Specifics of the Current Project
Efficiency of the ProcedureAlternating OperationsProcesses That Occur One After AnotherNode.js

Comparison Between Node.js vs PHP Frequently Asked Questions

1. Tell me about the benefits and drawbacks of using Node.js.

What’s So Great About Node.js?

  • Capable of handling many tasks or events simultaneously.
  • It works well as a foundation for developing bespoke applications.
  • The whole program, from the backend to the frontend, is written in JavaScript, which makes it easy to do code operations.
  • Containerization and microservices make it possible to achieve architectural scalability without disrupting service.
  • The service calls it makes are far less heavy than PHP’s.
  • Makes it possible to set up a connection between a client and a server in real time.
  • Benefit from JSON’s user-friendliness using this tool.

Downsides of Node.js

  • Since it’s still relatively young, its community and available resources are limited.
  • No CMS will ever add this feature or support it.
  • It can’t handle large files well.
  • Analysis of the system’s performance indicates that usage of online applications which generate complex graphics results in an inefficient output, placing a large amount of strain on the Central Processing Unit.

2. Exactly what are the pros and cons of PHP, if anything?

PHP’s Benefits

  • Supports a wide variety of computers and networks.
  • Features extensive CMS, library, and framework support.
  • The setting up of the development process and environment is straightforward.
  • PHP may be deployed without a virtual server or secure shell (SSH), in contrast to Node.js.
  • A large percentage of websites use PHP, making it one of the most widely used, long-lasting, and complex backend languages.
  • The most popular content management system, WordPress, is written in PHP.
  • A large group of web developers work together to improve the language, supporting tools, and educational resources available to the wider community.
  • It’s simple to pick up and fast to write code in.
  • It uses cleaner syntax and fewer lines of code.
  • There are a lot of web hosts that will let you use it.

Problems with PHP

  • Not able to process a large volume of requests.
  • PHP’s line-by-line processing of code can lead to slower operations in comparison to Node.js. However, there are ways to mitigate this issue and optimize PHP performance.
  • PHP is server-side only, meaning it can only be used at the backend of your website.
  • The implementation of bug fixing can be hampered by its utilisation. This is even the case when built-in error checking and correction functions are in place. PHP is not as effective as it could be when it comes to identifying, categorising and resolving coding issues.

3. The question is: when exactly should I utilise Node.js?

Applying Node.js to a project is a good idea if and only if the following conditions are met:

  • Creating a dynamic single-page application can be made more efficient with the use of tools such as ExpressJS, AngularJS and MongoDB. For even greater streamlining of programming and improved performance, Node.js is often added to the stack.
  • Node.js-based web applications show a marked improvement in performance when performing multiple requests to a server and waiting for a response. The asynchronous design of Node.js enables non-blocking execution, making it an ideal choice for tasks requiring rapid completion.
  • Node.js is an ideal technology for web applications that require real-time data capabilities due to its high data transmission speeds from the server to the client-side. Companies such as Medium, LinkedIn, and Netflix have been using the technology for some time, as it provides consistent and fast connectivity, real-time data, and is user-friendly for developers.

4. So when do I need to utilise PHP?

If your project necessitates the following capabilities, PHP is the best choice for your stack:

  • With a centralized server and no need for scalability, here’s how it works:

    A web application that operates within a single server environment should be written in PHP, as it is compatible with the popular Linux, MySQL and Apache server software stack.
  • Portability:

    PHP provides remarkable flexibility when deploying web applications across multiple servers, allowing for support of IIS, Apache, and other databases. Furthermore, when used in conjunction with popular content management systems such as Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress, the process of setting up a website is streamlined significantly.

Is Node.js or PHP Going to Win?

When assessing Node.js and PHP, it is difficult to choose between them as both have advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the decision must be based on which technology is best suited to the particular task.

Compare your product requirements with those of both Node.js and PHP to determine which will best meet your needs. When deciding, the experience of the developers you are collaborating with should be taken into account; if they are more experienced with PHP, then this may be the best option for you. However, if you are comfortable with Node.js, you may wish to go with this choice.

At Works, we are confident that we can help you identify the specific technical specialist you require. As a remote recruitment agency, we can source the talent you need in a period of two weeks or less. If you would like to find out more, we invite potential software developers to take a look at our job board.

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