NodeJS vs PHP – What’s the Difference for Web Development

NodeJS vs PHP – What’s the Difference for Web Development. PHP and Node.js are two technologies we often have to deal with in back-end development. PHP is considered ideal for server side scripting, Node.js is great for development needs of modern web applications. So what are other individual features of PHP and Node.js?  Some developers find it hard to choose the most popular and commonly used technology over time, which is PHP or newer technology, that is Node.js, which has immense support with Javascript.


Both PHP vs Node.js are two of the major backend technologies that power web applications. PHP is older but Nodejs is winning in modern applications for modern uses.  They are a great choice for web applications. 

What is NodeJS?

Node.js is a JavaScript based, open source runtime environment used for both back end and front end software development. It is a cross platform environment that supports Windows, Linux servers, Unix and macOS. This runtime framework is preferred for developing real time web based dashboards and applications. Furthermore, Node.js runs on the V8 engine, executing outside the web browser. Microsoft, LinkedIn, Netflix are a few top companies that use Node.js.

What is PHP?

PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. It is an open source programming language that is widely used for server side development. PHP is one of the most reliable server side scripting languages. Over 80% of the web pages on the internet are developed with PHP. It is synchronous and works well only with a central server in place.

PHP server  files have an extension of .php, and they can also include Javascript, CSS and HTML snippets.

NodeJS vs PHP (Web Development)

1. Performance

Performance is a measurement of the code of its behaviour on key performance indicators (KPI)s. There are certain projects and plugins that can be used to make PHP run faster. For example, there is a Hack created by Facebook to make PHP codes run faster. Apart from that, JIT with PHP 8 also makes it faster. On the other hand, Node.js server is considered faster anyway. So it is solely based on the architecture, skills, and experience of developers.

The following advantages of Node.js help in enhancing performance:

  • Interpreter usage:

Node.js does not need an interpreter as it is more agile. Therefore it is more likely a compiled language while PHP is indeed an interpreted language. Once the code is compiled, it can be easily executed with the CPU of a PC. Yet the interpreted code needs an extra process to get converted into CPU machine instructions. This additional process slows down the overall performance of applications. The use of the JavaScript v8 engine further enhances the performance of Node.js.

  • Event-Driven and Non-blocking I/O Stream:

PHP has a blocking model, while Node.js has a non-blocking model. In a blocking model, you need to wait for one statement to be executed before heading to the next. Thus there is a waiting time. In contrast, Node .js has a call-back system to listen to the processes and execute them parallelly.

  • Concurrency:

Even though Node.js is single-threaded, most of the web servers are designed to be multi-threaded. Since PHP is built for web development, it has more useful functions to work with servers, front-end frameworks and databases. Therefore it requires less amount of Javascript code for the front-end development.

  • Fewer dependencies :

Each request to the PHP application will be directed to a web server and processed by an interpreter. Node.js is handy in this aspect as it doesn’t have that many dependencies. Furthermore, Node.js is lightweight and easily manageable.

Node.js scores better in terms of performance with its contribution to speed, concurrency, and developer experience.

2. Practical Application

Node.js is ideal for creating single-page dynamic and real-time web applications which are data-driven. A few use cases of Node.js are streaming applications, chat applications, social networks, online educational platforms, games, and data-driven IoT devices. Netflix, Twitter, Coursera, slack, and PayPal are some popular examples of applications developed with Node.js.

Here is the Netflix website, which is developed with Node.js

PHP is used for dealing with content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress with an easy project setup process. It is also used for many effective eCommerce platforms and web applications, personal and marketing blogs, as well as other marketing platforms. Yahoo, Wikipedia, Flickr are a few use cases where PHP is used with a centralized server.

Etsy is one of the top eCommerce websites developed with PHP.

3. Application Development

Since PHP is designed for back end programming, it has some limitations in application development. PHP works well with the LAMP tech stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP /Python/Perl). Therefore, designing, implementing, testing and managing PHP applications is more complex and requires proficient developers. Thus PHP has a steep learning curve.

On the other hand, Node.js allows you to develop integral back end modules with reverse proxies such as Apache, Nginx, Express.js and MySQL databases and NoSQL databases like MongoDB. Besides, Node.js is a full stack language. It allows you to implement web or mobile apps only with Node.js using Javascript technologies. Especially, the node package manager ( NPM) adds more plus points to Node.js as it makes managing and adding dependencies to Node.js much easier.

PHP is a great choice if you are more concerned about building a fast solution. However, Node.js is the go to choice if you need to implement a more complex and efficient application.

4. Execution Speed

A PHP code is executed as follows, 


  • Sends a request to the File system.
  • Waits till the file system opens 
  • Reads the request.
  • Sends back the content to the user.
  • Next code/line processing

Node.js handles requests as follows, 


  • Sends a request to the file system.
  • Works on the request without waiting for others to finish.
  • The server sends the content to the client when the requested file has been opened and read by the file system.
  • The server then sends the content to the user when the relevant file is opened and read.

We can see that this asynchronous execution makes Node.js way faster than PHP. Additionally, the use of the v8 engine and real time server interaction make Node.js perform even better than PHP. It cuts out the downtime and waiting time, providing users with an efficient and effective experience.

5. Database usage

PHP normally works with relational databases such as MySQL, MariaDB, and PostgreSQL. However, there are also some time consuming and complex solutions that utilize NoSQL databases.

Node.js works perfectly with SQL databases (MySQL) and NoSQL databases such as MongoDB, Redis, and ElasticSearch without much effort. Moreover, it supports graph database systems like Neo4j.

So Node.js is the best choice if you want to implement a scalable web application that uses relational or non-relational databases from time to time. Yet, you should go for PHP if you need to access more database management options. However, remember that you may need to put an extensive effort when dealing with non-relational databases with PHP.

6. Website Hosting

Node.js has a variety of alternative hosting providers, which support its tech stack. You have more choices to select upon your budget when there are many alternatives. Joyent, the organization that manages Node.js offers a SmartOS system for easy debugging, enhanced performance and deployment support. Furthermore, Node.js can be used as a Platform as a service with Heroku and Nodejitsu.

With PHP powering at least 80% of the web, it is designed to support all the major hosting providers. While PHP is much more convenient with the LAMP stack, it is not recommended as a secured hosting tech stack when it comes to satisfying several server needs.

PHP has high compatibility with hosting partners similar to Node.js. However, Node.js is the better choice if you are more concerned about web security.

NodeJS vs PHP – What’s the Difference for Web Development Conclusion

There is no standard route to identify if Node.js is better than PHP or vice versa. It is vital to stick to your requirements of your project and then select the technology that best fits it. We are aware that it can be challenging to pick one out of Node.js and PHP. Each of the technology tools has its own pros, cons and applications.


Node.js can provide optimal value to your web app development in creating a dynamic single page ( such as MongoDB). Another reason to pick Nodejs vs PHP is that web apps developed using Node.js perform by continually sending requests to the server. (asynchronous architecture so non blocking execution). Node.js vs PHP performs better with real data as the transmission speed from the server to the client side application is fast.


But PHP is better if your need is a specific centralized server to your web app and it is not scaled across a wider  selection of servers. Pros of PHP server portability .

It is viable to look into the pros and cons of NodeJS vs PHP  in terms of the application you are implementing. 

Avatar for Shanika Wickramasinghe
Shanika Wickramasinghe

Senior Software Engineer at WSO2 which is the 6th largest Open Source Software Company in the World. My main skills are machine learning and software development. I have 5+ years of experience as a Software engineer.

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