Which programming language should you learn? Python, PHP or Ruby?
Possibly the biggest question facing web development newbies is which language is best to learn for their future career and prospects. There are many programming languages to choose from and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Possibly the most important concern is how long each language takes to learn and this varies for each language. So which should you learn for the best chance at a successful career in programming? Besides Python and Ruby, one of the biggest competitors of PHP is ASP.NET, in my previous article PHP vs ASP.NET, I gave a detailed comparison of these two main languages.
When I started to learn web development I did a lot of research on my own, but it made me incredibly confused. I also read some articles on the internet, like 'Is PHP Dying,' PHP learning curve, Python job aspects, etc. I could not find a definitive answer on which language was the best because different authors gave different perspectives. Most authors were just comparing the languages without giving an overall conclusion.
Therefore, in this article, I am going to compare three modern programming languages – PHP, Python, and Ruby. First of all, I want to show some old data that I found when I started learning about web development. Although this comparison is quite narrow and old, it does have some useful facts about the history of these languages.
PHP vs Python vs Ruby
In this comparison of PHP, Python, and Ruby it is clear that:
- The demand for PHP in the market is high.
- PHP programmers are also in high demand.
- Usability of PHP is low.
- Python is the easiest to learn and understand
- Python is faster
- Learning Ruby is tough
- Ruby has the highest usability
As I said earlier, though, it is a brief comparison. From this comparison, we cannot conclude that PHP is the best or that Ruby is the worst. The are also a number of further questions which have not yet been answered:
- Which language is the most secure?
- What are the other limitations of these languages?
- What are the advantages and other supports for these languages?
- What is the job-to-developer ratio
- What are the average salaries for developers?
Which Language is the Most Secure?
The security of the website/application depends primarily on the programmer, not on the programming language. PHP is well known as an unsecured language. This is because the syntax of PHP is not as simple as the syntax of Python or Ruby. Due to complicated syntax (low readability), the chances of an error occurring is greater. If a programmer/developer does not make any errors then PHP is also not an unsecured language, and indeed PHP5 has a good reputation in comparison to older versions. As a result, there is not really a solid conclusion to be drawn from the question of security.
What Are the Limitations of These Languages?
- A more verbose syntax from C/C++ and Perl, with lots of curly braces and dollar signs and "->"-s
- The confused tableau of function names. The built-in library has a wide variety of naming conventions. Functions often have prefixes to denote their source (but often not). Functions are often placed into classes to simulate namespaces.
- Not suitable for large applications and it's hard to maintain since it is not very modular.
- Weak type: Implicit conversion may surprise unwary programmers and lead to unexpected bugs. For example, the strings “1000” and “1e3” seem equal because they are implicitly cast to floating point numbers.
- PHP is a scripting language, not object-oriented.
- Python has no 'switch' statement and 'do... while' construct.
- Increment and decrement and assignment operators (assignment is a statement only in Python).
- The ternary operator/statement (... ? ... : ...).
- An expedient (commonly installed) environment.
- No private, protected, or public modifiers for both properties and methods.
- No abstract and final modifiers for both classes and methods.
- Learning it can be difficult.
- Lacks informational resources.
- Slower processing time (CPU time) compared to other programming languages.
- Development and updates are slower.
What Are the Advantages of These Languages?
- It supports all major web servers like Apache, Microsoft IIS, Netscape, personal web servers, iPlanet server, etc.
- PHP is highly accepted by many industries. It is more popular than other languages.
- During hosting, it is very easy to host PHP websites directly without any server configuration. Hosting a PHP website may, however, be a headache for newbies.
- The Zend framework in PHP is the most well known. The frameworks like Yii, Laravel, Codeigniter, etc., have given good strength to PHP.
- Easy to develop any type of CMS quickly.
- Easy syntax and very readable. Easy to learn for those who have little or no experience with programming.
- General purpose language.
- Very object-oriented.
- Python is much better suited as a "glue."
- Huge standard library. Just to pick some random examples, Python ships with several XML parsers, CSV & zip file readers & writers, libraries for using pretty much every internet protocol and data type, etc.
- High-level data structures are a list, the directory is well suited in Python.
- Great frameworks for web development like Django and Flask.
- Ruby is a more object oriented language compared to Python and PHP.
- Ruby was developed to make the developer's work easier.
- Mix-ins allow imported classes and modules to be extended and overridden by user code after it is imported. Classes are never closed on Ruby. You can also modify later.
- Ruby code blocks are more powerful than Python's lambdas.
- Everything returns a value (including things like 'if' statements). Due to this, it is easier to write functional-like code than it is in Python and much easier to make chain commands.
- Gem libraries of Ruby. A lot of available gems make every task easy, and achievable with only a few steps.
- The power of Ruby in web development is its railed framework. It is very magical. You need not be worried about the basic functionality of web development like simple editor deletes. You can focus more on the other complex algorithms.
- Ruby believes in giving the programmer freedom and power.
What is the Developers-to-Jobs Ratio and the Average Salary?
This is a very subjective question and will not have a simple, general answer. The number of both jobs and developers is greater in PHP, which results in a lower salary in general. However, this does not mean that the salaries of all developers/programmers are low and some developers are very highly paid. There are also some solid job opportunities for Python and Ruby programmers as there are fewer developers working in these languages as compared to PHP, but the demand is generally lower.
- PHP and Python are easy to learn for beginners.
- PHP is currently the most secure for a job.
- PHP is good for small websites. There are big websites, however, like Facebook and Wikipedia that use PHP, but they are moving away from it and embedding other languages. Changing a website from one language to another is not an easy task.
- Python is best as a general purpose language.
- Frameworks of Python (Django) and Ruby (Rails) are preferred more than other frameworks for web development.
You can choose any one of them, but, remember, all programming languages have their own scopes just like players in any game. So make sure to choose the one that's right for you.