Saturday, February 05, 2011

PHP vs Python: A followup

I received a lot more commentary for my previous post than I anticipated, so I thought I'd followup with some comments and feedback I received.

PHP not dead, just out of use
First, the title of my previous post included the phrase "dead to me".  I in no way wanted to imply PHP was worthless to anyone and its large community was going away.  I honestly don't care if PHP sticks around forever.  My point is that as templating libraries for the web have gotten so good, much of the code is outside the template and the small benefit of embedding PHP directly into html is much less useful than it used to be.'s first description for those who might be new to the language are immediately shown, "PHP is a widely-used general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for Web development and can be embedded into HTML."  Within the first sentence they advertise PHP as being html-embeddable.  My point is, big woop.

PHP's gotten boring
Many people have commented on other forums about leaving PHP, because its gotten too boring.  And vice versa, leaving another language like python because it too got old and went back to PHP.  Whatever floats your boat, I guess.  In some ways arguing about the pleasure of programming in PHP over python is like arguing the merits of Spanish over German.  Clearly, German is superior.

People tend to have relatively strong opinions over rather mundane things ranging from favorite foods to their preferred brand of socks.  Programmers similarly can have very strong opinions over their languages of choice when sometimes it's their our to express themselves.  Reading blogs comparing lines of python to lines of ruby tend to put me to sleep.  Some comments on this subject included the ugliness of php or python.  Ugliness, of course, is a very subjective word.

Years ago I encountered a site railing against the java language.  I found most of the author's points, however, to be mostly an issue of taste.  One issue he mentioned was the case-sensitive nature java required/assumed.  This perplexed me seriously as almost every language I've ever used in my life was case sensitive.  Indeed, jumping over to TIOBE, it looks like the top ten languages all have case-sensitive syntax.  To OO developers, this style is often used to easily distinguish between class and object.  Calling java ugly for using a industry standard?  That's like calling a girl ugly because she's not a blonde asian.  My point is what exactly is ugly about python?  To me calling a programming language ugly demonstrates an inability to express one's possibly valid thoughts on a language.  For example, some perl I might considered "ugly" for its compact, symbol-based syntax and parameter passing.  Some find python ugly simply for lacking the C-style angle brackets between blocks--are they by contract considered beautiful?  One might call java ugly for its extreme use of compositing just do simple file I/O.  Or are these people literally calling some language visually displeasing?

So beautiful...

PHP's Community
One of PHP's biggest strengths is its availability across a large range of hosting providers.  PHP currently is the standard web language any hosting service must provide.  Hosts providing alternatives such as python and ruby-on-rails usually are a little harder to come by, which is a boon for PHP.  One commenter strongly disagreed with my statement of the python community's size compared to php.  The community can mean different things, so I'll admit it my mistake.  Again, looking at the TIOBE data, PHP is shown to be more popular than python (though the latter looks to overtake it next year).  Or you can simply google "php community" and see it garners more than 77 times the hits as "python community".  Maybe python programmers are anti-social...

Long live templating engines!
Concluding with my previous post's title, templating engines have replaced my "need" of PHP.  PHP isn't horrible by any means, but with capable templating engines in so many languages, anyone can just program in _insert_favorite_language_here_.  In this case, PHP is just another scripting language.  I thought about porting blocks of PHP code to python for readers to compare, but after a brief perusal I found the endeavor totally pointless considering the relatively little changes I'd make between them.  So instead of ending with a quip, I'll end with a question: Supposing a script-savvy developer was entering web development, what are some motivations for using PHP I haven't mentioned?


PJ said...

The only thing I can tell you buddy.
You are a true developer.
You go to the path of the worker.

Thomas Lyon said...

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