Like many web developers, PHP was the first dynamic language I learned to code. Looking back, it makes perfect sense. Virtually every hosting service, including many free providers, are PHP-enabled. I was able to get a free web hosting account, log into the dashboard to setup a MySQL database, and learn PHP the old-fashioned way–trial and error. I was able to do everything I needed to with PHP. Why fix what isn’t broken?

Once I began using MVC frameworks such as Codeigniter, I was able to do even more with PHP; and in shorter amounts of time! However, something was missing. If I can get the job done well AND efficiently with PHP, why do I constantly feel the need to try other dynamic back-end languages?

The fact is, PHP feels a bit outdated. Python (more specifically, Django) introduced me to built-in web servers. Rather than configure the local Apache server to run the code the way I need it to, I could simply type python manage.py runserver into the terminal and view my site on port 8000. PHP 5.4 has actually introduced this feature, but most frameworks have yet to implement a simple process for this.

I’ve recently begun using Node.js and I must say–I finally feel like I am using the most cutting-edge technologies available at my disposal. I am not a native javascript developer, but nowadays it is nearly impossible to get a decent website up and running without javascript. It only makes sense to write the back-end of your site in javascript as well.

Node Package Manager makes it incredibly easy to add dependencies to your project. Gone are the days of downloading jQuery plugins one-by-one and moving them to your public directory. Need a templating language for your app? Look for one in the NPM directory, add it to your JSON file as a dependency, and run npm install in your app’s directory.

Bower by Twitter, though still feeling a bit beta, shows the future of package management for front-end assets. A JSON file is all it takes to declare dependencies such as jQuery, Bootstrap, and AngularJS. Run bower install and your packages are conveniently stored in the components directory.

2013 sounds like a big year for PHP. With Laravel being the new go-to MVC framework for many PHP developers and Composer introducing package management, PHP is making some huge strides. But how long will that last before Python/Ruby introduce a new feature that PHP lacks?

Only time will tell. For now, I will continue using PHP for most of my static sites. As for web apps? Node.js seems to be the direction to head in.


Devin Young