PHP vs JavaScript: What’s the Difference, and Which Is Better?

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PHP vs JavaScript: What’s the Difference, and Which Is Better?

PHP vs JavaScript: which one should you get started with or pick for your project? If you’re a programmer or web developer, you may be grappling with this question. Choosing either can affect the course your developer career takes, either making or breaking your project’s success. 

As a programmer, it’s essential to understand the strengths and limitations of each language to build robust and efficient applications. PHP and JavaScript have various features that render them useful for different applications.

In this article, we’ll examine some of the main differences between PHP and JavaScript so you can make an informed decision on which one best meets your needs.

PHP vs JavaScript: Side-by-Side Comparison

Developed ByRasmus LerdorfBrendan Eich
Year Released19941995
FunctionalityServer-side scripting languageClient-side scripting language
Performance (Server-side)Faster (Relative)Slower (Relative)
PlatformRuns on a Web ServerRuns on a Browser or a V8 Engine Runtime
Popular FrameworksLaravel, Symfony,  CodeIgniter, YiiAngular, React,  Vue, Svelte
Latest Version8.2ECMAScript 2022

PHP vs JavaScript: What’s the Difference?


Both PHP and JavaScript are open-source scripting languages primarily used for web development but they differ in terms of functionality. PHP is a server-side scripting language used to build dynamic web pages, handle forms, manage sessions and cookies, and interact with databases.

PHP, thus, takes care of business on the back end, also known as the “server side.”  It makes sure everything is running smoothly and handles all the heavy lifting when it comes to processing user data and databases.

PHP is popular because it’s easy to learn and use, with a simple and straightforward syntax. It’s also highly compatible with most operating systems, web servers, and databases.

php vs javascript
The PHP language grew without a written formal specification or standard until 2014.

©Postmodern Studio/Shutterstock.com

JavaScript is a client-side scripting language used to add interactivity and dynamic functionality to web pages. It can manipulate web page content, validate forms, create animations, and perform other tasks.

JavaScript is widely used because it’s flexible, easy to learn, and highly compatible with web browsers. It’s also essential for front-end development, allowing developers to create highly interactive and dynamic user interfaces.

It should be noted that since the introduction of Node.js, JavaScript is now widely used for server-side programming, as well. This allows developers to use the same language on both the client and server sides. That has opened up new possibilities for web development, as it allows for faster and more efficient communication between the client and server.


PHP is a scripting language that follows the C-style syntax, meaning it has a lot of curly brackets and semicolons. It’s also an object-oriented language with many classes and functions.

JavaScript is an interpreted programming language that follows an event-driven model. It uses less punctuation than PHP and relies heavily on objects to store data. JavaScript also supports functional programming paradigms, such as closures, lambdas, and higher-order functions.

One example of the most notable differences in the syntax of PHP and JavaScript is how they handle variables. In JavaScript, variables can be declared using var, let, or const. Var is the older way of declaring variables in JavaScript. It’s similar to how variables are declared in PHP, using a dollar sign ($) followed by the variable name. 

PHP: $foo = “bar”;

JavaScript: var foo = “bar”

However, var has some quirks and can sometimes lead to unexpected behavior, especially with hoisting.

Newer versions of JavaScript introduced let and const, which have become more popular in recent years. Let allows block-scoped variables, restricting a variable declared with let to the code block where it is defined.

Likewise, const creates block-scoped variables. However, a const variable’s value cannot change after it is defined. Additionally, PHP has a separate operator for concatenating strings (the dot), while JavaScript uses the plus sign to concatenate strings.


Developers can use both PHP and JavaScript on a variety of platforms, but they usually use them in different contexts. Server-side programming primarily utilizes PHP, and, consequently, devs often pair it with web servers such as Apache or Nginx.

PHP’s design facilitates seamless interaction with these servers, enabling the delivery of dynamic content to web browsers.

Javascript code
JavaScript engines were originally used only in web browsers.


Since JavaScript is predominantly for client-side programming, web browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari commonly run it. Developers use JavaScript to enhance their web pages by providing interactivity and functionality, resulting in more engaging and responsive web pages.

With the advent of new technologies like Node.js which uses the V8 engine runtime, JavaScript has also become a popular choice for the back end. Moreover, platforms like Electron and React Native use JavaScript to create desktop applications and mobile apps, respectively.


Although people can use both languages for server-side programming, they differ in performance. PHP is generally considered to be a high-performance language, especially when used with a well-optimized server configuration.

Compiling the code to bytecode can notably enhance its performance. Additionally, running it as a standalone binary can further augment its performance. PHP also has a large community of developers who have developed a wide range of performance optimizations and caching techniques to help improve its speed.

JavaScript performance can be highly dependent on the specific implementation and runtime environment being used. In general, JavaScript is not as fast as PHP when it comes to server-side processing. 

However, it has several advantages on the client side, such as the ability to run code in the browser’s JIT (Just-In-Time) compiler and the ability to make asynchronous requests to the server.


Debugging is an important part of any programming language, and PHP and JavaScript offer different options for developers to catch errors and fix bugs. PHP has a simple and intuitive debugging process, with built-in features that allow developers to easily find and fix errors. 

Developers can use the error_reporting() function to display all errors and warnings that occur during a script’s execution. Additionally, var_dump() enables developers to inspect variables and objects in detail, aiding in the identification of any issues’ origin.

JavaScript, meanwhile, offers a more complex debugging process due to the fact that it runs in the browser environment. However, browser developer tools like Chrome DevTools and, Firefox Developer Tools provide a range of powerful debugging features that allow developers to inspect HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code. This makes it easier for developers to identify issues and optimize their code for better performance.

In addition, third-party debugging tools like Xdebug for PHP and Node Inspector for JavaScript provide even more advanced debugging capabilities. They let developers step through code line-by-line, set breakpoints, and monitor variables and objects in real time. This makes it easier to find and fix complex bugs, ensuring that applications run smoothly and efficiently.

PHP vs JavaScript: 8 Must-Know Facts

  1. Rasmus Lerdorf created PHP in 1994, while Brendan Eich created JavaScript in 1995.
  2. PHP was originally an acronym for “Personal Home Page,” but it now stands for “Hypertext Preprocessor,” which makes it a recursive acronym.
  3. JavaScript got its name from the Java programming language, even though it is not related to it.
  4. PHP supports multiple relational databases such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle, while JavaScript works well with document-based databases like MongoDB and Firebase.
  5. Both languages have their own testing frameworks such as PHPUnit for PHP, while JavaScript has popular ones like Mocha. These frameworks help write and run automated tests on code.
  6. PHP and JavaScript are similar in several ways. Both languages are object-oriented, supporting concepts such as classes, inheritance, and interfaces. Both languages also support asynchronous programming, which enables executing code in the background or a separate thread without disrupting the main one.
  7. PHP and JavaScript are also similar in how they handle loops and conditional statements. JavaScript has standard loops like for, while, and forEach, as well as conditional statements like if/else, switch/case and try/catch for exception handling. PHP has similar constructs.
  8. Albeit not exclusively, Facebook uses both technologies heavily in its web development stack. PHP is the primary server-side language they use for their web applications. Facebook uses a custom version of PHP called Hack, which is a superset of PHP that includes additional features such as static typing and asynchronous programming. 
    Facebook also uses JavaScript extensively on the client side and has actually developed its own JavaScript libraries and frameworks, including the famous React, to help simplify the development of complex user interfaces.

PHP vs JavaScript: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Choose?

When deciding between PHP and JavaScript, we can safely say that both these technologies have their place within the programming world, depending on the needs of the particular project being worked upon. For instance, if your goal is to create something basic but highly functional, i.e. including complex server-side computations, PHP may be the better choice. Its syntax is simple and it also offers good security. 

However, if you want something more client-side heavy, such as a website with lots of animations or interactivity, then the JavaScript route would be the one to naturally choose. JavaScript allows you to develop richer user experiences through the use of various libraries and frameworks.

It’s worth noting that JavaScript can also be used for both front-end and back-end development. You can use frameworks like Next.js and Node.js to create full-stack JavaScript applications that run both on the server and in the browser. This approach can be useful to build a highly responsive and interactive application that requires real-time data updates.

Similarly, you can use a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) stack with a PHP framework like Laravel to build the backend and use React for the front end. This can provide a powerful combination of PHP’s server-side processing capabilities with React’s ability to create complex user interfaces.

When choosing your technology stack, it’s important to select the right tool for the job to ensure a successful outcome. Whether you decide to opt for PHP or JavaScript, it’s important to always bear in mind the differences between them in order to settle for the right one.

PHP vs JavaScript: What’s the Difference, and Which Is Better? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What’s one big similarity between PHP and JavaScript?

One area where PHP and JavaScript share some similarities is in their object-oriented programming features. Both languages support classes and inheritance, but the syntax for defining classes and creating objects is different in each language.

How popular are PHP and JavaScript in the developer communities in 2023?

It seems PHP has been steadily falling out of favor in developer communities in recent years as the demand for skills in other programming tools like Ruby, Python, and Node.js has grown. This has led to PHP being less favored by some in the web development community.

On the other hand, JavaScript has become increasingly ubiquitous and is now commonly used for both frontend and backend development, thanks to the rise of frameworks like Node.js and Next.js.

This approach allows developers to build full-stack JavaScript applications, which can streamline the development process and make it easier to share code between the server and client.

Is PHP still relevant in 2023?

Despite the downward trend, PHP is still widely used and supported by a large community of developers. Modern PHP frameworks like Symfony and Laravel as well as CMSs like WordPress and Magento have helped to keep the language relevant and they still continue rolling out updates as does PHP.

Why is JavaScript sometimes called ECMAScript?

That’s because it was developed under the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) standard. The first version of JavaScript was standardized in 1997 by ECMA International as ECMAScript and has since been updated several times.

This standardization helps ensure that all web browsers recognize JavaScript code written according to the standards set out by ECMA.

PHP and JavaScript are scripting languages. What does that mean?

Unlike compiled languages like C++ or Java, where the source code is compiled into an executable binary file that can run directly on a computer’s processor, scripting languages are interpreted by another program, called an interpreter. The interpreter reads the code line by line and executes each command as it encounters it.

Which is easy: PHP or JavaScript?

Both PHP and JavaScript can be relatively easy to learn, but the difficulty level largely depends on your previous experience and background.

If you have a background in programming and are familiar with other programming languages, you can pick up any of these two in no time.

Meanwhile, if you are new to programming, there’s a chance you may find JavaScript easier to learn since it is a front-end language that deals with visual elements and interactions on web pages.

Additionally, JavaScript has a gentler learning curve than PHP due to the less strict syntax rules (i.e it’s weakly typed), making it more accessible for absolute beginners.

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