PHP v Ruby v Python - The Language Crunch
Written by Mike James   
Saturday, 11 August 2012

Language wars - it defines who we are. But at the moment there are programmers who are thinking hard about the language they use. Should my next one be one of these?

Python and Ruby are probably in the same group, but PHP is something different. Both Python and Ruby are languages of choice in the sense you have to make a positive choice to use them. PHP, on the other hand, is often thrust upon the poor programmer. After all, it is integral to LAMP - Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, and many of us just have to work with the delivery system that the hosting service provides as standard, and that means PHP. Of course, you can set up an alternative language, but that involves making a choice.

PHP is often thrust upon you.

 

phprubypython2

 

There is also a very real difference in where PHP and the other two started from. PHP is a language that was put together to solve a particular problem - creating web pages. The other two, Ruby and Python, are "designer" languages. The people who started them were passionate about languages and wanted to design the best language ever invented. Of course they were doomed to failure as there is no such thing and the goal is unattainable.

But the passion is there and it shows in their developer communities and the constant striving for a better version of their pet language. When PHP attempted to try to reinvent itself as PHP 6 developers rebelled and stuck with version 5.3.  Python and Ruby programmers, on the other hand, seem to delight in the new.

So watch the video - it's fast and loud so make sure you have your mouse over the pause button:

 

 

You could say that all that really matters is what the job prospects are, but we in interesting times. The rock solid foundations of Java and C# are no longer as solid as they used to be. Which language should you invest your time in with a reasonable prospect of being able to continue using it into the future? Java is both threatened and invigorated by being owned by Oracle. The .NET languages of Windows that once seemed so promising are now threatened by Microsoft's indifference and its tendency to "re-imagine" everything.

 

phprubypython1

 

The choices are no longer obvious, especially if you are creating apps for the desktop and particularly for the Windows desktop. Of course, you could say that this is an ecosystem that is about to become niche as the big picture moves to mobile. For the moment, however, it is still a rich prospect and the mobile environment isn't any clearer in terms of which language you should adopt or learn - Java, JavaScript, C++ or Objective C? Notice that PHP, Python and Ruby don't appear in this particular list.

phprubypython2

 

As I overheard someone saying the other day, "Only the Web is truly open". Perhaps this makes the choice of your next language JavaScript.


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