For many years, both PHP and JavaScript have been on top of web development technologies popularity lists. These languages have a large audience, there’s no shortage of developers using them daily, and the number of projects implemented with their use is uncountable. Besides, there are dozens of pretty popular frameworks that allow developers to make more with less coding, such as Laravel (PHP) or React (JS), for example.

The thing is, PHP and JS are often considered phenomena from different worlds. JS is often seen as a tool exclusively for creating the frontend part of the web application and implementing user interaction functionality. PHP, in its turn, is a server scripting language that steers everything related to the back-end. However, there’s a scenario where JS and PHP can compete in the same field. Node.js is a JavaScript framework that enables executing JS code on the server, making it an alternative to PHP. Today, we’ll consider both these technologies’ main pros and cons and the types of projects they will better suit.

Node.js. Great Performance with Some Limitations

The first advantage of Node.js comes from the very nature of this JS framework. Many programmers already know the JavaScript language or intend to learn it. For almost a decade, all developer surveys have shown that JavaScript is the most popular programming language worldwide. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that any frontend developer can start using Node without learning some new tricks, but the steep learning curve won’t be a thing to worry about. Additionally, the high popularity of Node can also be considered a huge helper.

Second, Node has tons of extensions. npm, also known as Node Package Manager, provides access to CLI and online repositories hosting numerous JS packages. The use of these packages helps to free the development team from the necessity to implement various app functions from scratch, which positively impacts the overall project time. In addition, more ease of development can be achieved thanks to sharing code and tests between client-side and server-side parts of the app. These Node advantages result in a shorter time to market, which can be an excellent opportunity for startups that want to demonstrate their app functionality to the first users as quickly as possible.

Node shows better performance in many scenarios if we compare it with other languages, such as Java, for example. When Netflix faced a massive influx of new users, the need for replacing Java on the server-side arose. Among the other advantages that Node provided, this JS framework allowed the development team to reduce the app’s startup time by 70%. Additionally, the ease of scalability can become rather handy for companies that want to overcome growth problems with little to no effort.

Unfortunately, Node has some weak sides that one should consider before choosing it as a part of the tech stack. For example, dealing with tasks that require a lot of processing power is not its strongest side. Furthermore, asynchronous processing, one of Node’s distinctive features, can become its colossal disadvantage when processing some large tasks. Also, due to the asynchronous nature, Node apps can highly depend on callback functions. In some scenarios (but not necessary), this feature can cause maintenance problems.

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Now, let’s consider some situations where Node can outplay PHP. First, asynchronous calculations that we’ve mentioned earlier can become a considerable helper when your app has to process multiple simultaneous user requests. For example, an online marketplace app that must handle dozens of banking transactions and search queries. Node will process them simultaneously, while PHP will have to line up all requests in a queue and deal with them one after another. Furthermore, unlike PHP, Node won’t block new requests even if the old ones aren’t processed yet, which also invests in the overall performance.

Choosing the right database management system is a task that can predetermine the success of your web application. Due to that reason, database architecture design occupies an essential role in the product life cycle. There’s plenty to choose from. Software development companies deliver and maintain dozens of systems supporting relational, conventional, and NoSQL databases. To make sure your future app can better meet the needs of end-users, it’s better to ensure that it’ll hook up with a specific database management system. Node supports a wide range of database management systems, including NoSQL ones. PHP, in its turn, has some issues when it comes to NoSQL projects which can become a problem in specific scenarios.

PHP. Beloved Classics That Still Work. But Keep an Eye on Your Data

If you decide to stick with this language, you’ll work with one of the oldest and most popular programming languages. It was initially released in June 1995 and has been developed up to the present day. Its popularity is one of the main advantages since there’s no shortage of developers with rich experience in using PHP. Also, if you have a corporate website that works on PHP, its maintenance won’t become a problem in the coming years. Finally, the ease of integration with old databases will be a plus if you still work with a legacy system and don’t plan to modernize it despite all the drawbacks.

PHP creators deliver code that can make the development process more flexible and give programmers freedom in deciding how the final application will look. In addition, it enables compatibility with all major platforms, servers, and database management systems, so the development team can have enough flexibility to build a system less prone to vulnerabilities.

Among the main disadvantages of PHP, we can mention its flexibility from the coding point of view, which isn’t always a good thing. It doesn’t force different development teams to follow the same style of writing the code. In the long run, it can result in difficulties with maintenance if your website will require much rework to be performed by a developer who sees the code for the first time.

Some security issues may arise if you decide to choose PHP instead of Node. Being an old technology, it has many outdated code parts, which leads to several possible security vulnerabilities such as cross-site request forgery, cross-site scripting, local file inclusion, etc. The bad news is hackers know them well. The good news is they’re well-known by web developers as well. If you choose to cooperate with a company providing PHP web development services, make sure they have solid experience to prevent possible security issues. Also, make sure you have enough time in your possession if you decide to choose PHP development. Poor error handling and lack of efficient debugging tools can lead to a prolonged testing stage.

However, despite the described disadvantages, PHP can be a better choice than Node in some cases. For example, it can simplify the development process since it allows you to implement more functionality with fewer code lines compared to Node. In addition to winning in development time, remember that, in theory, the less code your application uses, the less chance that bugs will appear.

The community behind a specific technology also plays an important role. The more people use a particular language, the more demand for fixing bugs and adding new features. Also, more programmers will contribute to various libraries and frameworks, which will help to cut costs and time on development. JavaScript beats PHP in popularity when we talk about programming languages in general. In the case of server-side programming languages for websites, PHP has remained undefeated for more than a decade:

When to Use One or Another

The question is, which of described technologies to choose for your next web application development project. Both Node and PHP have strong and weak sides, so answering the question might not be simple. In any case, remember that the specifics of your project must remain the only criteria upon which you should decide what technologies to include in your tech stack.

Node, for example, will be an excellent choice for an application whose primary purpose is to process a large number of concurrent requests. A dynamic single page application (SPA) can be a good example. At the same time, remember that it’s only suitable for small and medium tasks and building an app requiring complex calculations with Node is not the brightest idea. If you seek maximum data security and decreasing the very possibility of vulnerabilities is one of your main aims, you should also prefer Node. The development team can effortlessly build a full-stack environment with Node and make testing less labor-intensive and costly. Last but not least, Node is an excellent example of a JS framework to develop applications for IoT and wearable devices.

PHP, in its turn, can outplay Node when it comes to some heavy calculations. With the release of PHP 7, development companies can rely on this technology if there’s the need to do some big data analysis. Do you work with a legacy system or old databases and want to save some money and postpone complete software modernization? You better look at PHP since it can handle old databases with ease. If you run a content-centric business and want to benefit from all the advantages that WordPress provides, consider it as a major development tool since WordPress is written with this programming language.


Like in many other situations related to web development, we can’t unequivocally say which of today’s technologies can prevail over the other. Web dev scene veterans like PHP still have enough powers to outplay newcomers in some scenarios. On the other hand, Node is not far behind in this race for programmers’ adoration, and its outstanding speed and performance has a significant influence on the web development landscape. Choosing between the available back-end development options is sometimes tricky, and the availability of multiple strong competitors (e.g., ASP.NET, Python, etc.) doesn’t make it any easier. If you can’t make a decision, there’s always a possibility to consult with industry specialists.

Contact us if you’re looking for an experienced development team who can take the best of both Node and PHP to create outstanding web apps.