- May 09, 2017
- by Brad Litwin
Choosing the right programming language or framework for your next project is always complicated. Ask a dozen developers for their opinion and chances are you’ll get a dozen different answers, which brings us to one of the most heated debates in the field – which is better, ASP.NET or PHP?
As with most similar questions, the answer lies in what type of project you’re working on. Both ASP.NET and PHP are powerful tools able to handle complex web applications. However, they do have their differences, and if you get to know them, you’ll be able to make the right decision when the time comes.
In this article, we’ll provide you with an introduction to each of these platforms, tell you what their main features are, and explain how they compare against each other from several standpoints. Let’s get started with ASP.NET.
What is ASP.NET?
ASP.NET is an open-source server-side web development technology capable of building complex web applications. Unlike PHP, ASP.NET isn’t a programming language per se, but rather a ‘framework’, which is a type of programming methodology. In fact, ASP.NET itself supports any .NET language as part of its workflow.
As you may know, frameworks are basically libraries of code with specific purposes. You don’t need to use a framework to build a sophisticated website, but in most cases, there’s no point in starting from scratch if you don’t have to. That’s the beauty of a good framework.
Finally, it’s worth noting that ASP.NET was created to run on Windows, which is to be expected since it’s the brainchild of Microsoft. It is possible to get the framework working on UNIX-based systems (such as Linux and macOS), but it tends not to work as smoothly.
However, there’s also a very similar framework for cloud-based applications – as in they share a lot of code – called ASP.NET Core. It’s also open-source, and it works across all three of the most popular Operating Systems (OS).
ASP.NET’s Key Features:
- Windows-based framework
- Enables users to build web forms, create APIs, and put together dynamic websites
- Requires the use of the Visual Studio Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
- Known for its high performance
- Fully open-source
Now that we’ve covered what ASP.NET is and what it does, it’s time to learn about its biggest ‘rival’, PHP.
What is PHP?
PHP is an open-source programming language with plenty of applications, the most popular of which happens to be web development.
PHP is a server-side tool (like ASP.NET) that enables you to create dynamic web applications, such as login pages, forums, and surveys. There are very few run of the mill functionalities for the web that PHP can’t help you implement.
For PHP to work, you’ll need to set up an interpreter on your server, such as the Zend Engine, which is the most popular option around. Unlike ASP.NET, PHP happens to be entirely cross-platform, so there are no limitations to what type of server you can use the language on.
Finally, it’s also worth noting that PHP and HTML go hand in hand when it comes to web applications. After all, you’ll need to embed the former into the latter. That means you’ll need at least a basic knowledge of HTML if you’re hoping to use PHP.
PHP’s Key Features:
- Cross-platform, server-side language
- Widely used around the web
- Enables its users to build all sorts of web applications
- Can be embedded into HTML files
- Doesn’t require the use of a particular IDE to develop applications
- Completely open-source
We now have a firm grasp of what ASP.NET and PHP are and what they do. Next, it’s time to get to talking about how they compare to each other in the most critical areas.
How do PHP and ASP.NET Compare?
So far, we’ve established that PHP and ASP.NET are two different types of tools that you can use to achieve very similar results. However, the real question is, how do they compare against each other?
To answer that question, we need to reiterate that ASP.NET and PHP are different at a core level. The former is a framework that uses mainly C# (although it does support other alternatives), whereas the latter is a language unto itself. That means that when it comes to performance, it doesn’t make sense to compare ASP.NET and PHP head to head – they’re apples and oranges. Instead, we need to talk about how C# measures against PHP.
If we were to test both languages on a vacuum, C# would have the edge over PHP when it comes to performance. However, modern hardware has made it so that most languages’ innate performance isn’t a limiting factor anymore. That means that when it comes to performance, it’s all about how you code your application. It’s a technical win for C#, but a practical tie between both languages.
When it comes to scalability, many of the same criteria apply. The truth is that even if C# – and ASP.NET by extension – is inherently faster, the way a large application behaves will mostly depend on how it was coded. If you don’t follow best programming practices for your language, chances are which language you use isn’t going to make your application magically perform better.
At this point, you may be thinking That doesn’t help me choose between ASP.NET and PHP! and you’d be right. Your choice of tool mostly comes down to personal preferences, such as which OS you’d like to use on your server, for example.
However, we’d be remiss not to give PHP a small edge over ASP.NET, since it’s far more widely used. That means that in most cases, you shouldn’t have problems finding help when you run into an issue, and most servers you use will probably support it out of the box.
Choosing the perfect language for each new web project never stops being complicated. There are always new tools coming out and staying on top of all of them can be difficult. That being said, PHP and ASP.NET have both demonstrated their staying power, and are excellent choices for most web development projects.
When it comes to choosing between both tools, it’s all about personal preference. If you’re looking for the easiest option, PHP is probably your best bet thanks to its broad adoption and popularity. However, ASP.NET is every bit as powerful, and you shouldn’t rule it out by default until you’ve seen it in action.
Image credit: Pixabay.