Battle of Programming Languages: Ruby on Rails vs. PHP

In this review, we tried to make an objective comparison of PHP and Ruby on Rails and give the pros and cons of each of them. We would like to note that PHP is a popular programming language that is used for web development and Ruby on Rails is the most popular framework of the Ruby programming language, which is also used for web development projects.

Comparing the framework and the programming language is not entirely correct, but due to the PHP legacy, many popular frameworks of this language make coding more difficult, so developers prefer to use their own set of libraries and plugins for web projects.

Different languages are often compared with each other in order to choose the best for the web development projects, although the differences between them are more ideological. One and the same property of the language can be a boon for some developers, and a nightmare for others. In six rounds we will try to answer the question — which language is better?

Round 1. Projects Development Speed

Projects on Ruby on Rails are developed really faster than their counterparts in PHP, this confirms both our and our colleagues’ experience. This is thanks to both the technical features of the RoR framework architecture (for example, thoughtful conventions simplify the configuration), and an extensive set of ready-to-use native Ruby on Rails tools, a huge set of ready-made solutions in the community (so-called “gems”), and the simplicity of programming on it. Thus, at the moment, thousands of ready-made solutions to various software modules implementations are available in the public domain for free. Authentication, authorization, commenting systems, payment systems, mailing lists, and many more (all that is usually developed from scratch) have been implemented by other teams, tested, and recommended by a huge community. Development time is a client’s money — the more development takes, the more expensive it is.

Round 2. Development cost

The number of developers on Ruby on Rails is much fewer than the number of developers on PHP. This is due to the different threshold of entry into technology, which indicates the quality of developers. There are equally few good developers in all technologies. Highly-qualified developers are really expensive. Moreover, they are equally expensive in any programming language and platform. Rails vs PHP has fewer cheap developers because of the significantly fewer bad developers in the community.

However, the web development cost in Ruby on Rails can be significantly lower due to the availability of ready-made solutions and a more flexible language structure. If you need to create a small blog, PHP will serve well for these purposes, but Ruby on Rails wins on more serious projects.

Round 3. Performance

Ruby on Rails is fast and has good performance. This framework provides good and readable code based on best programming practices and reliable architecture. PHP is a programming language where there are the opportunity and freedom to deliver the code that the developer wants. If we look at benchmark tests PHP has better performance, but only in the case of well-written code.

In any case, problems of project performance are not problems with the wrong choice of framework or programming language. Most likely, these are issues of the initially erroneous project architecture, data caching, or database optimization.

Round 4. Culture and standards

Ruby on Rails is a framework. Quite often, a framework does not allow you to perform on your wish. Of course, in Ruby on Rails, you can “invent your bike” and program in any direction without relying on standards; but often this is not required. Standards for placing files in a project, standards for writing code in a project, general programming rules in Ruby on Rails strongly structure any project. Due to this, the project becomes readable. Entry into the project of beginners is very fast. Experience shows that any newcomer to the project on the first day of work makes their first useful edits. Thanks to this, it is not considered a big problem if the development of the project was initially led by one team of programmers, and the support of the project or its completion is by a completely different one. A project on Ruby on Rails vs PHP is understandable to any developer.

PHP is a programming language where a lot of developers with different levels of quality use their own libraries and plugins without resorting to any kind of standard. Despite the fact that there are many more PHP developers, not everyone can understand a project and make changes to it, all because of the different ways of writing.

Round 5. Popularity

One of the most popular criteria of popularity is the number of sites released in a particular programming language. According to Builtwith statistics, there are more than 39M websites created with PHP, whereas the number of websites built with Ruby on Rails is around 500K. However, the main reason for the popularity of PHP is that a significant number of small websites are made, for example, based on the popular CMS Wordpress. At the same time, according to Google trends, PHP’s popularity is falling significantly compared to Ruby on Rails.

PHP popularity compared to Ruby on Rails according to Google Trends

Round 6. Quality

When developing any big project, one very reasonable question arises. How and who will test the project? The quality of the project largely depends on the quality of testing. Not always there are funds and desire to create departments of testing. Unlike other frameworks, RoR has excellent automated testing tools. Other programming languages ​​and frameworks do not have standard testing tools. Of course, there are third-party tools that allow you to organize automatic testing of a project in PHP, but they are not out of the box tools and programmers often do not think about their use. In a Ruby on Rails project, ideally, the project code is not written until tests are written for this code. Rails vs PHP ideology involves the initial use of the BDD (Behavior Driven Development) or TDD (Test Driven Development) methods.

Thanks to high-quality testing and ready-made solutions, projects in Ruby on Rails, as a rule, are of higher quality in comparison with PHP.

Round 7. Security

Ruby on Rails is strongly tuned by default for the project security. When using Ruby on Rails tools, SQL injection and XSS attacks are excluded. All input parameters are escaped by default. The output variables in the templates are also escaped only if you did not specify an inverse option. Rails developers already have at their disposal standard security scenarios, which is not in PHP. But if you need some custom features, then you need to introduce solutions for additional security.

The Bottom Line

Ruby on Rails — 5 points

We have made a very general comparison of Ruby on Rails vs PHP where Rails has a significant advantage thanks to its architecture, a large number of ready-made solutions, and a large community, which contributes to the speed and high-quality development of projects in this programming language. High standards of quality, testing, and safety speak in favor of choosing Rails vs PHP for your web development project.

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