Is PHP Harder Than JavaScript?

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Programming is among the most popular occupations today, so it’s no wonder you want to learn a programming language.

But every beginning is difficult. If you’ve looked into an advanced language like Python or Haskell, the steep learning curve was probably quite daunting. Of course, the best solution is to start with more accessible languages.

To that end, there are no better options than PHP or JavaScript. But which should be your first programming language to master?

If you’ve wondered, “is PHP harder than JavaScript?” or is it the other way around, this article will give you all the answers on the subject. We’ll look at each language individually, examine the differences between them, and explain which one is harder to learn and use.

What Is PHP?

PHP is used in websites and web applications. It represents a scripting language that functions on the server side.

Since PHP is open-source, downloading and using the language is free. Of course, this has made PHP very popular. However, the language has many other strong points besides being free.

PHP can be quite powerful if used properly. That’s precisely why massive blogging systems like WordPress use this language. Its programming can also run quite deep, allowing PHP to be used in complex systems like social networks.

Best of all, learning the basics of PHP isn’t overly complex. Beginners should have a relatively easy time getting the hang of the language.

How Is PHP Used?

With PHP, programmers can create dynamic webpage content. The list of available options is quite extensive:

  • Complete control over server files (file creation, reading, writing, and deleting)
  • Form data collection
  • Sending and receiving cookies
  • Database data manipulation (adding, deleting, and modifying)
  • User access control
  • Data encryption

Every PHP file may contain data in various formats, such as PHP code, HTML, plain text, JavaScript, and CSS. While those formats will exist on the server, they’ll be returned through the browser in the form of plain HTML.

The versatility of this programming language makes it applicable to many different systems like Mac OS, Linux, Unix, and Microsoft Windows.

Since the language is made for server-end programming, it’s no surprise that PHP is completely compatible with nearly all modern servers. IIS and Apache are only some of the popular servers that support PHP.

What Is JavaScript?

JavaScript is used primarily for webpage features that are more complex than plain text or static images. This scripting language specializes in animated images, multimedia control, dynamic content updates, and other relatively complicated webpage elements and finds its use on the client side.

JavaScript is often combined with two other standard pieces of software employed in web technologies, CSS and HTML. Together with JavaScript, they form a powerful trifecta of web development tools.

However, that doesn’t mean JavaScript can’t work with other web solutions as well. We’ve already mentioned that PHP data can incorporate JavaScript to great effect.

Uses for JavaScript

JavaScript is very versatile. At its core, the language can be used to:

  • Infuse variables with custom values
  • Operate on strings, i.e., portions of coding text
  • Run codes when specific events occur on the page

This short list doesn’t exhaust the possibilities of JavaScript. But that’s only the base functionality of the language itself. JavaScript can be expanded upon using an application programming interface (API).

Combining JavaScript With APIs

When you have JavaScript as the foundation, it’s possible to build upon it with APIs. These represent pre-made building blocks of code.

APIs allow the implementation of specific programs and functionality that might be nearly impossible (or, at least, very difficult) to implement.

Imagine you want to furnish your home with new furniture. You could try to design the pieces yourself, research and find the best wood, cut it precisely into fitting panels, and finally screw everything together.

Or you could simply go out and buy pre-made cutouts and get the job done in a day or two.

Basically, a set of APIs does for programming what pre-cut furniture panels do for interior home building. With these tools in the JavaScript arsenal, competent developers can build almost anything they imagine.

Crucial Differences Between PHP and JavaScript

It might seem like PHP and JavaScript have many similarities. After all, both are programming languages focused on web development. However, that broad definition is pretty much where their shared traits end.

PHP and JavaScript differ on many accounts:

  • Language structure and use
  • Execution
  • Client or server-end application
  • Functionality differences
  • Methods of operation

Language Structure and Use

PHP and JavaScript don’t handle code strings and other elements the same. Here are the most important differences in that regard:

  • PHP accepts lowercase and uppercase letters; JavaScript doesn’t.
  • JavaScript supports interchanging objects and arrays; PHP doesn’t support that.


While both PHP and JavaScript are relatively light from the implementation viewpoint, there are some subtle differences. In particular, PHP is somewhat easier to implement. The main reason behind this difference is that JavaScript requires heavy use of an integrated development environment (IDE). On the other hand, PHP development doesn’t have such requirements.

Client or Server-End Application

We’ve covered this aspect when talking about PHP and JavaScript individually. However, it’s a crucial difference that must be pointed out and expanded.

JavaScript is a client-end language, while PHP is server-end. This means that JavaScript is primarily used for web interface development and specific applications for networks. JavaScript can change the look of a website by modifying HTML tag attributes without any server-side interaction.

PHP does almost the exact opposite. As a server-end language, PHP is used to build custom content, handle requests, authenticate users, and display results, to name a few. Regardless of which language is easier to learn, it’s worth noting that their purposes are entirely different.

Functionality Differences

In terms of website functionality, both languages have some strong points and shortcomings.

JavaScript excels at certain functionality options where PHP falls slightly behind. But PHP is more powerful overall due to its vast library.

On the other hand, JavaScript can be quite complex, so developers could have more trouble implementing all available functionality solutions. Comparatively, enabling PHP functionality is relatively straightforward.

Is PHP Harder Than JavaScript

Methods of Operation

JavaScript is built to operate within browsers. Since the language is client-end, it can also be executed from the Command line.

In contrast, PHP can only operate with a server. In fact, it’s impossible to run PHP without it, which is understandable for a server-end language.

Which One Is Harder?

If you’re asking, “is PHP harder than JavaScript,” the short answer would be no. The opposite is true: PHP is easier to master than JavaScript, especially for beginners.

While PHP isn’t object-oriented, the language can mimic various object-oriented features. Furthermore, PHP is dynamic, so it doesn’t have rigid rules. Developers can make quick changes without breaking the structure.

Generally, the consensus is that PHP isn’t hard to learn, especially compared to JavaScript. You can get started with nothing more than a server setup file and a PHP file. Once you have that foundation, you can start experimenting with the multitude of PHP-friendly databases. These include widely popular options like SQLite, Oracle, and MySQL.

Why Is JavaScript Harder Than PHP?

Simply put, JavaScript has a more complex syntax. Due to that complexity, the learning curve for JavaScript is initially quite steep. In comparison, you can make your first steps in PHP relatively quickly.

However, this statement will mostly apply to absolute beginners. Once you get into more advanced territory, your perception of programming difficulty might shift.

This is because JavaScript is more strict in terms of rules. While the hard rules initially make the language more difficult to learn, they also provide a controlled environment. Naturally, this environment will be easier to navigate when you get over the basics.

PHP comes with a lot of freedom, allowing beginners to catch up with the language faster. But that freedom may complicate matters further down the road.

While you can’t do absolutely everything you think of in PHP, the language won’t impose many limitations. So, errors will occur more often, especially as you gain more confidence and start experimenting.

Is PHP Also Easier to Learn Than Python?

We’ve determined that PHP is more accessible to beginners than JavaScript. But how does it compare to another widely popular language, Python?

You might be surprised that Python is even easier to learn than PHP. Python has an intuitive syntax and a massive community. In other words, you could figure out the first steps relatively easily, and if you can’t get past something, there’s always a Python developer ready to answer questions.

However, you might want to stick to PHP if you’re into web development. This language is made specifically for that purpose, while Python is a more generalist solution.

Start Learning PHP First

Let’s reiterate the titular question: Is PHP harder than JavaScript?

For beginners, it won’t be. You’ll learn the basics of PHP easier and more quickly than JavaScript. Any web development enthusiasts would do well to start with PHP. And since it’s so versatile and widespread, you, like many programmers, might stick with this language for years.

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