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Wondering about the performance of Python vs PHP for your backend web development activity? We can help you out with some tips to pick one. But before you go in for the merit of each for database and framework comparison, it is important to have an overview of what exactly is backend web development and why it is important to choose the right technology to build yours?


Backend Web development – The brains behind your favorite websites & applications


Today, you have millions of web and mobile apps that power almost every popular consumer service from streaming of music to financial web & mobile applications that manage payments and even those that record vital health data.

As thousands of apps hit the market every single day, there is one area that grabs equal or in fact more attention than the app development initiative. It is none other than backend development. Be it any web or mobile app, users often get access to privileged services through apps only if they have a powerful backend module that has been engineered to serve millions of requests for potential customer-facing services.

Backend development is a huge initiative that require specialist skills such as data modeling, algorithm research and development, performance tuning and much more. But one of the most difficult challenges with regards to a backend development activity is the pain of identifying a programming language that can be used to build the backend service for a consumer facing or enterprise mobile or web app.

While there are several technologies available today to help build the most efficient backend for enterprise and consumer-facing apps, the two prominent ones that most developers seek to build backend applications are PHP and Python.

Both are open source and have extensive adoption rates amongst some of the world’s largest technology companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. to name a few. Some of the world’s most powerful websites and applications are powered by either of these technologies and frameworks built exclusively for these technologies.


PHP vs Python in 2021 is still considerable debate as both the languages have rooted their place in the list of top web development frameworks.

So now comes the obvious question:

Who performs better in the battle of Python vs PHP for web development in 2021?

We don’t have a one-line answer for that but let’s take some time to compare these two technologies. We are evaluating their performance of both these technologies against some core pillars of competence any backend development technology should possess. The one that scores more collectively in these pillars should ideally be the winner among PHP and Python. So, what are the core pillars? We have rounded up 5 of them:-


  • Ease of Understanding and Development
  • Support of Libraries
  • Framework Competence
  • Database Connectivity and Performance
  • Community Support

Let’s see how the technologies score in these areas

PHP vs Python 2020 for web development performance


1) Ease of Understanding and Development


Python can be the winner here thanks to its simple syntax, fun to use programming style and clear documentations that are available.

It is easy to learn for a new programmer as most of the language is created by referencing the common English language making it much easier for developers to create powerful application code with minimal effort. PHP on the other hand was not created with such a relatively easy learning curve.

It might be easier to begin with PHP, but the inherent complexity of not being developed as a general-purpose programming language still exists for long term projects. From an organizational perspective, if you are to train resources to build backend using either of these languages, it is better to opt for Python if your resources do not have extensive experience in programming.

However, if they have good experience, PHP shouldn’t be much difficult for them as well. To conclude, we can say that Python does have a small edge over PHP in this space.


2) Support of Libraries


Backend applications must handle a large number of functionalities and complex modular business logic to enable continuous service through front end apps sourcing insights from them.

This is where well-built libraries can help developers add more functionality easily rather than having to build every modular logic from scratch. Python emerges the clear winner in this regard because it houses exceptionally researched and well-endowed libraries that support new age feature additions needed for most applications.

If you were to observe trends in app development, almost every business is starting to integrate AI and machine learning into their consumer apps to help improve customer experience through better understanding of their behavior. Python offers solid and reliable libraries exclusively for machine learning such as TensorFlow, Theano, Scikit-Learn, Keras and much more.

They are fast and can integrate seamlessly with the framework you choose for developing the backend application. Though PHP offers a well-developed packages repository, it doesn’t offer the relative ease with which Python provisions capabilities such as machine learning and AI which today is used by almost every startup and consumer facing app developers.


3) Framework Competence


One area where both PHP and Python can go head to head in a battle is framework competence. Both offer solid and well-established frameworks that make the jobs of developers easier. While Python brings to the table, frameworks like Django, Pylons, Flask, Pyramid, etc. there is no dearth of options with PHP which boasts of frameworks like Symfony, Codeigniter, Laravel, Zend, etc.

All these frameworks of both the technologies are scalable, fast and are used by large internet-enabled services globally. There is virtually no factor other than say, ease of setting up where Python may give a faster result, where PHP and Python can be chosen over each other in this regard. It is a tightly held match with regards to the framework competence with no indication of a clear winner.


4) Database Connectivity & Performance


Database is one area where PHP can still claim a noticeable victory over Python with regards to ease of connectivity and performance. With access support for over 20 different types of databases, it clearly makes a headway in this space whereas Python struggles with limited database integration choices.

The affinity of Python based frameworks to ORM also takes a toll on performance as PHP based systems can connect faster. But Python is fast picking up on its slow pace and very soon we could see it usurping PHP with regards to database connectivity and performance.

In fact, there are so many startups that are using Python to build their back-end applications, more innovative database options are being built ingeniously by them which will ultimately add more value to the Python community as a whole.  For the time being, let’s just say PHP is a winner here.


5) Community Support


A big reason why Open Source technologies are fast gaining widespread adoption in the world of tech is because of the high degree of extensibility it brings to the core technology with help from a large support community.

There are millions of contributors who provide help and create libraries and standard features for both PHP and Python languages. Besides, you can see some of the world’s most premier web development services relying on these two languages like for example Google using Python for services like YouTube and Facebook creating its backend in PHP.

These two brands alone testify the support both the languages will get in the tech community. Both have well-documented support archives which can help beginners and experienced programmers to find their way in challenging times.

Here again, we would give a small edge to Python, since it finds more use in companies that rely on capabilities like Machine Learning. With more community support for such unique and high demanding skillsets, Python does project a better stance when compared to that which PHP offers.


Final Thoughts:-

The contest of Python vs PHP for web development is to an extent evenly fought one. But if you look deep into the performance specifics, it can be seen that Python has a more favorable positioning among startups and product companies emerging in 2021 thanks to its inherent support for simplicity and empowerment of features like machine learning.

PHP is by no means an outdated technology, but it is often seen to be playing catch up with newer ones like Python.


PHP vs Python graph of google trend

Source: Google Trends

Nevertheless, before you decide between PHP and Python to build the backend for your next web development project, it is important to identify your core digital business goals and then select appropriate technology.

This is where Citrusbug can be your perfect partner. Our consultants will empower you to take a better decision with regards to using PHP or Python by analyzing your requirements, business models and technology stack. Once a technology is finalized, you get access to premium resources in either of them to help in building your ideal mobile or web app. Get in touch with us to know more.

Ishan Vyas

Ishan Vyas

Ishan is a Project Manager at Citrusbug Technolabs having more than a decade of exposure in IT industry.

Developed over hundred web and mobile applications, he is helping businesses to achieve their technology milestones.

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