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Server-Side Scripting – Why PHP is the most popular

What is Sever-side programming

Server-side scripting is a technology employed on websites to dynamically display different data as required. For example, imagine how many products are available on Amazon, or your favorite online shopping store and you want to browse a range of products. Displaying all of them using completely different static pages would be completely inefficient, so instead such sites display static templates (built using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript), and then dynamically update the data displayed inside those templates when needed, e.g. when you want to view a different product.

There is a wide range of server-side programming languages out there some of which include:

  • PHP
  • ASP and ASP.NET
  • GO
  • Google apps script
  • JavaScript using Node.js
  • Java using JSP
  • Perl
  • Python (Pyramid. Django and flask)
  • R
  • Ruby on Rails and many others

Of these languages, PHP, JSP and ASP are the most popular among web developers and over the years, PHP has enjoyed the top spot as the most preferred server side language.

Let us begin by comparing 3 of the most used server-side web programming languages and see why PHP is the most popular server-side language.

JSP vs ASP vs PHP

JSP which stands for Java Server Pages is a server-side scripting language based on Java. PHP is based on the C programming language and ASP belongs to Microsoft originally being a derivative of Visual Basic, although you can also use different syntax like C#.

To connect to web servers and perform fundamental and vital server side processes, these 3 languages are the most commonly used by most of the web pages. Some of these processes include connection to databases, data manipulation, updates, RSS among others. However, each one these languages has its own merits and drawbacks, and normally web developers develop a preference for one of these languages over the others.

Well, which one is the best then? The answer depends on your purpose, style of programming and generally your programming expertise and experience. Let’s briefly talk about each of these languages and have a look at their distinctive properties.

JSP (Java Server Pages)

JSP is built on the Java Programming language which makes it friendly for most developers who have prior experience coding in Java. It also allows the developer to use the same libraries and extensions that they would use to create desktop applications in traditional Java.

JSP also uses compilers which are programs that parses JSPs, and transforms them into executable Java Servlets. These compilers are usually embedded into the application server and run automatically the first time a JSP is accessed. However, pages may also be pre-compiled for better performance, or compiled as a part of the build process to test for errors

One of the most important advantages is that it is free, and one can develop in this language without having to pay for any additional software for the development of web pages.

However, Like any other Java program, JSP code must be executed within a Java virtual machine (JVM) that interacts with the server’s host operating system to provide an abstract, platform-neutral environment.

ASP / ASP.NET (Active Server Pages)

Developed by Microsoft, ASP was their first server-side script engine for dynamically generated web pages. In 2002, ASP.NET was introduced coming as a successor of ASP which has come to be know as classic ASP.

It is in essence one of the easiest languages to learn and start using for any beginner in the world of web development because its development environment is very friendly bundled up with graphical user interface capabilities to facilitate easy creation of web applications and pages.

A huge chunk of the source code for the web pages is generated by the Microsoft IDE (Visual Studio), which saves the developer’s time and effort during creation of web pages or websites.

However, to develop professional apps & pages in this language, it is necessary to obtain a paid license for its Microsoft Visual Studio development environment. Despite this, ASP is still the most widely used in many companies and organisations because of the facilities it provides, and the short time involved in creating pages using this language.

PHP (Hypertext Pre-Processor)

PHP is one of the most powerful and most used languages for the development of dynamically generated web pages. PHP’s syntax tends to resemble that of the C programming language hence its has become a favorite among developers with prior knowledge of C. Unlike JSP, PHP  is a bit more flexible in terms of its syntax, and it is very fast.

So Which is the best of all???

As mentioned earlier, this is mainly based on your personal taste, programming style and experience. As we have seen, most Java experts would prefer JSP while C programmers may opt for PHP. In my opinion however, PHP comes first, then JSP and finally ASP.

Why PHP is the choice of many developers

PHP is very flexible and fastprogramming language of all. You can use it as you want, and it is especially easier and faster in connecting with databases.

PHP is open-source

Compared to ASP and JSP, PHP is free and you don’t have to pay for anything. There’s also wide range of free books, guides and tutorials for PHP and in case of trouble, there is a strong community of PHP developers who are always ready to help.

Simplicity and Versatility

PHP is a language of a very simple syntax, and easy to learn also has a variety of functions that can be used to improve the performance of our programs.

Security

PHP is a very common language on the web, besides being free, this means that a huge community of programmers who use this language are cooperating to improve the PHP engine, which is why it is increasingly safe and secure.

It will improve and become more stable as time passes with its new versions. Another advantage is that you can find many tips and tricks on the internet to avoid critical errors that can become dangerous bugs on websites.

Ease of Portability

PHP runs on different platforms such as Windows, Linux, Unix, etc. PHP is also compatible with almost all servers used today (Apache, IIS, etc.). PHP supports many databases such as MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL etc. PHP with MySQL database and Apache Server is a very good and popular combination. PHP combined with MySQL are cross-platform.

Readily available learning material

With the availability of free resources especially online, you can learn PHP more easily and quicker than you know it, you will be writing amazing PHP scripts with little effort. Whenever you stumble upon a  troublesome concept that you may need help on, it’s as easy as doing a little Google search.

Among other things, we can find support for databases, flash, and dynamism in web pages using PHP which is actually the main job PHP does. Although we also find these features in other languages such as python or perl, PHP makes it easier to implement them, due to its versatility and simplicity.

If you are thinking of making a breakthrough into web development then PHP is one of those languages that will solve your problems especially on the back-end. Will all the advantages discussed above, PHP is definitely the way to go for server-side scripting. In any case you need expert help, feel free to reach out to us and we shall surely help you out.