PHP vs. ASP.NET: Costs, Scalability and Performance

phpvsaspnetWelcome to a battle of two heavyweights. In one corner, we have PHP, the most popular scripting language on the internet with millions of dedicated developers and an even larger legion of fans. In the other corner, we have a ASP.net, a platform backed by Microsoft itself that can use any .NET supported language.

So which is better? In this article, we’ll compare PHP and ASP.net and tell you which platform is better suited for your project. For a more detailed overview of PHP, check out this course on PHP for absolute beginners. If you are partial to ASP.net, take a look at this course to learn ASP.NET MVC

PHP Overview

PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. PHP originated as a scripting tool that has quickly taken over the internet thanks to its easy learning curve and large developer community. According to one estimate, PHP is installed on over 244 million websites with server support from virtually all major hosts. PHP is also free and boasts a number of frameworks to simplify web development.

Some of the major websites written in PHP include WordPress and Facebook.

ASP.NET Overview

ASP.NET was developed by Microsoft to provide developers with an easy scripting tool for building web pages and web applications. It is a successor to ASP (Active Server Pages), another platform pioneered by Microsoft in the mid-90s. You can code ASP.NET using any .NET supported language, which made it especially popular among .NET developers. Microsoft’s early domination of the web browser market with IE was also responsible for increasing the popularity of ASP.NET.

Some of the major websites that use ASP.NET are PlentyOfFish.com and MySpace.

The question now is: what language should you choose if you are starting out as a programmer?

Costs

This is a no-brainer – PHP is completely free, while ASP.NET is a Microsoft product. This means there are certain costs associated with ASP.NET development, namely:

  • Buying Windows, since ASP.NET development is possible only on a Windows machine. This shouldn’t be a problem for most people. If you use a Mac or Linux, you can use the Mono project to use ASP.NET on your machine.

  • ASP.NET requires Windows hosting. Until a few years ago, Windows hosting used to be significantly more expensive than Linux web hosting. This is hardly true today; you can easily find Windows hosts for almost the same price as Linux web hosts.

  • A development environment. The most popular IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for ASP.NET is Visual Studio. Microsoft also offers a free version of VS called VS Express.

As a beginner, you won’t have to specifically shell out extra for using ASP.NET, but once you upgrade to the professional stage, you will need something like Visual Studio, which can set you back by a few hundred dollars.

PHP, on the other hand, is entirely free, runs on Linux web hosting, can be used on Windows, Mac or Linux, and is supported by a number of free and paid IDEs.

Winner: PHP

Scalability

Both ASP.NET and PHP are highly scalable. Consider that Facebook, the second most heavily trafficked website in the world, was originally built in PHP, while MySpace, the website Facebook dethroned as the world’s favorite social network, was built in ASP.NET. This illustrates that both ASP.Net and PHP are highly scalable, as long as the programmer knows how to scale their application.

Winner: Tie

Performance

Performance for most web applications is a function of the interaction between the script, the database and the server. Most web applications written in PHP follow the LAMP stack – Linux (OS), Apache (server), MySQL (database) and PHP (scripting language). The LAMP stack is extremely popular for web development, and thus, has been optimized extensively for improved performance.

The database used most often with ASP.NET is MSSQL (Microsoft SQL Server), although you can also use MySQL with it. The performance different between a ASP.NET+MSSQL stack and a PHP+MySQL stack are very small with PHP+MySQL edging out ASP.NET.

Another factor that affects performance is the OS and file system used on the server. Most tests indicate that Linux and ext4 file system have better I/O performance than Windows and the NTFS file system. Thus, there’s a good chance a PHP application running on a Linux web host will slightly outperform a similar ASP.NET application running on a Windows host.

Winner: PHP

Support

PHP is free and among the most popular scripting languages online. There’s a huge open source developer community that regularly contributes to PHP development. The open-source community also tends to be very helpful, which is a big bonus for beginners.

ASP.NET, on the other hand, is a Microsoft property. While you’ll find plenty of developer boards run by ASP.NET enthusiasts, the scene is nowhere near as vibrant as PHP’s.

Winner: PHP

Availability of Tools and Editors

Most PHP developers prefer using text editors like VIM and Notepad++ instead of a full-fledged IDE. If you did want to use an IDE, however, you’ll find solid support for PHP in free editors like Eclipse.

ASP.NET is also supported by most IDEs but is mostly used with Microsoft Visual Studio. Microsoft VS is one of the most powerful, feature-rich and flexible IDEs around, even though it is not free. Thus, if you’re willing to shell out the cash, you’ll find that no PHP editor/IDE comes even close to Visual Studio.

Winner: Tie

Using Visual Studio? This course on C# with Visual Studio will help you get started.

Ease of Learning

PHP wins this one, hands down. ASP.NET is usually written in C# (pronounced C ‘Sharp’). C# is built on C which can be difficult to learn for most beginners. Its syntax is complicated and difficult to read, even for experienced programmers. People new to programming will find ASP.NET hard to pick up.

PHP, on the other hand, is very easy to pick up (so much so that most seasoned developers consider PHP coders as ‘newbies’). You can learn a few simple lines of code and start tinkering with WordPress themes almost right away.

Winner: PHP

Language Popularity

According to the TIOBE  Language Index, PHP ranks as the 6th most popular language online. ASP.NET, on the other hand, doesn’t even show-up in the top 20.

Winner: PHP

Conclusion

Unless you are already familiar with the .NET framework or want to stick to Microsoft technologies, there is no discernible need to use ASP.NET over PHP. PHP can do everything that ASP.NET can, and it can do it for free.

Now that you’ve decided to use PHP, take this course to learn PHP programming from scratch.

What do you prefer – PHP or ASP.NET? Let us know in the comments below!