Working with a webhosting company I get asked all the time — which programming language is better? It’s obvious that I’m more bias towards PHP, but there are other great languages out there that may be more suitable for certain people creating certain sites. I’ve decided to write a nutshell comparison on the most common languages, so you can decide for yourself.
My preferred language, PHP, is the most popular and widely-used dynamic programming language on the Internet. As a result, it’s increasingly become easy to learn (I have 4 brain cells and even I could do it) and can be run on virtually any operating system. It’s popularity has resulted in the availability of thundreds of contributions, modules, and addons for PHP to increase its functionality and integration with other software. It’s also free to download and easy to install (for most people), and is the most common in CMS’s and prebundled website software.
Perl is one of the oldest and most successful languages to date. With thousands of modules that can be added, it can pretty much do anything. While it’s currently not as popular as PHP, it’s more efficient for server management in its double use as a shell scripting language. It’s also open-source and compatible for most all OS’s. The only real downside is that it’s not as quick and easy to learn, and even the simplest tasks can take more programming and lines of code to accomplish. Also, the camel logo is fugly.
I’ll try to be nice about this one. Really, I’m not an ASP fan mainly because it’s proprietary to Windows and IIS. That being said, I’m sure you can figure how secure and reliable it is. It’s not as actively maintained by its developers (Microsoft) so major bugs have been known to linger for months — unacceptable for busy webmasters trying to manage professional websites. While ASP, .net, and VBScript (aka the ASP family) are all “free”, if you want any of the fancy addons or modules for them you’ll be owing Microsoft a nice little licensing fee. On a positive note, Chilisoft has made is possible to port ASP over to Linux, so it’s no longer 100% platform dependent.
Java Server Pages (developed by Sun) is more similar to the ASP framework, but targeted towards Java fanatics. Out of all the programming languages I’ve studied in school, JSP is probably my least favorite. Not only is it hard to learn, but there’s no such thing as simplicity with it. However, it’s very powerful software and is platform-independent, as long as you have a Java Environment for it to run in. Tomcat (an Apache Project) is the most common servlet container for JSP. But, Java takes up a lot of memory and JSP servers are very difficult to maintain and administer for non-experts.
Ruby is one of the newer programming language to hit the web developer market, and it’s actually quite close in concept to PHP except that it’s 100% object-oriented, and very clean because you don’t need as much punctuation. It’s also very beginner-friendly, and is growing in popularity. The main disadvantage to Ruby is that it’s difficult to troubleshoot runtime errors because its reluctance to declare variables before their use. And being that it’s a newer language, there are definitely less resources available and not as many applications currently employing Ruby as a framework. However, it is cross-platform compatible, easy to install, and even easier to learn.
I really don’t know a whole lot about Python other than that expert programmers claim that it’s such a strong language. I personally think it’s crap…my one shot at Python and I find out that it’s very whitespace/tab sensitive, so one extra space can ruin your program. Coming from PHP I don’t find that very appealing…I personally think it’s a mistake, and that its developers just call it a ‘programming guideline’ since they can’t figure out how to fix it. Really, there’s no huge benefit in using Python other than for your Google sitemaps, so all I’m going to say is steer clear.
I put this at the bottom of the list because I don’t really consider it a programming language, but it is the more predominate and widely used language that all the others revolve around. I do think it’s important that every programmer become an expert in HTML before going dynamic with their coding. While other languages rely on HTML for output, it’s very common for sites to be purely HTML and nothing else. However, HTML is a static language with no dynamic capabilities in itself whatsoever, so it’s somewhat boring on its own