Choose the Right Backend Development Languages for Your Web Project

Backend development is all about the server-side of the software that is invisible to users. Backend developers aim at adding applicability and functionality to everything that is created by the frontend designers.

Along with the time, things move towards flexibility, clear code practices, as well as agreement and unity with the frontend part of the software. Backend technologies make it obvious how smoothly the web project is going to run. In this article, I’m going to introduce the most effective backend languages that provide users with a great experience.

Backend Development Languages #1 Java

As a programming language, Java is more than 20 years old. For the first time, it was created by Sun Microsystems. Later the language was acquired by Oracle that owns and develops it until now. Java dominates the software development space as a server-side technology. Java backend provides:

✔️ Platform Independence

Regardless of the fact of where Java is originally created, the code written in Java is possible to run on any other platform. Thanks to this feature, Java is famous for its approach of “Write Once, Run Anywhere”.

This platform independence is provided by the Java Virtual Machine. This JVM is the environment where the code is executed in Java language. Before this virtual machine, the software was written for a specific operating system. JVM became a turning point as it makes it possible that the software is run on any hardware or OS which has the JVM installed.

The JVM makes the Java source code readable by any platform with no special compilers. As a result, Java becomes versatile and differs from other languages.

✔️ IDE (Integrated Development Environment)

Each of the Java IDE is a complete ecosystem. This is what supports all the backend code creation stages. It becomes possible to write, edit and debug Java code in each IDE, as well as build software, and test it.

✔️ Libraries

Libraries are considered to be one of the greatest time-saving tools that combine the knowledge of the Java community. The majority of the Java libraries are open-source. They are supported and updated by Java developers. The overall collection of Java libraries encompasses all programming aspects. Here you may find general-purpose libraries (Apache Commons), XML parsing libraries (JAXB), unit testing libraries (JUnit), and many more.

✔️ Multi-threaded Processing

Java makes use of a multi-threaded web server so that each request is processed in a separate thread. Due to multi-threading, several tasks are simultaneously performing without queueing the events.

Thanks to multi-threaded processing, Java is considered to be a great tool for CPU-intensive applications, for instance, video streaming, image editing, etc. Unlike other languages, multi-threading is integrated with Java, and no additional procedure is required for each operating system in order to enable multi-threaded request processing.

Backend Development Languages #2 Node.js

Node.js is an open-source and cross-platform JavaScript runtime environment. It executes JavaScript code out of the web browser. It is considered that Node.js isn’t a programming language, but it’s a runtime allowing the server-side execution of JavaScript. The features Node.js offers are:

✔️ JavaScript Everywhere

Probably, the greatest advantage of Node.js is that it was the first tool that made it possible to use JavaScript on the backend. JavaScript is possible to use both on the frontend and backend, through Node.js. As a result, a more seamless infrastructure is created.

When JavaScript is used for both server-side and client-side, it becomes easier to migrate the code in case of being required. Once the same language is used, the logic that is created for the browser runs on the server with minimal adaptations.

✔️ Microservices

This is an architectural approach that is based on creating the application as a combination of small services. So, instead of containing everything in one single unit, the application relies on microservices. That means the process is broken down into smaller services that are lightweight pieces based on a logical construct. Once the project is deployed or scaled, the separate services are distributed within a set of machines. In the service fabric world, these machines are known as a "cluster".

Microservices allow you to independently build, operate and manage services. Accordingly, it is easier to scale out based on the required resources. Microservices offer their own load balancer as well as the execution environment. The data is captured in their own databases. And finally, microservices provide freedom of language and platform. It is easy to pass from one to another and teams may choose the best language.

✔️ Faster Development

Node.js backend offers a much easier learning curve than Java. The process of getting started is quicker. It also becomes easier and smoother to share knowledge within the team when everybody knows JavaScript.

Although Java libraries, as well as reusable components, are superior, there is a lot of community-developed code that is reused in Node.js apps. Besides, Node.js takes fewer lines of code than Java. As a result, it takes less time to create an app with Node.js.

✔️ Scalability

Although both Node.js and Java execute requests asynchronously, Node.js presents better horizontal scalability achieved by adding more hardware. However, in the case of vertical salability, Node.js is not as great. Because of its single-threaded nature, only a single core is used.

Backend Development Languages #3 PHP

PHP is one of the good backend development technologies that provide robust CMS opportunities. In 2015, PHP was updated to its 7th version. The well-organized documentation of PHP backend makes it peculiar among other backend development languages. PHP features are:

✔️ Simplicity

Compared to other scripting languages PHP is very simple and easy to use. The official PHP resource covers comprehensive information about all the features of the language. The provided ready-made PHP solutions, in their turn, simplify the coding process. Thanks to the intuitive logic and syntax of PHP, developers who have at least some experience in coding write their first code in PHP just having a few days of practice.

✔️ Interpretedness

PHP is an interpreted language. For example, there is no need for compilation. The most widely used PHP implementation is powered by the Zend Engine and known simply as PHP. Zend Engine compiles PHP source into a format that it can execute, thus the Zend engine works as an interpreter.

✔️ Speed

PHP is faster and it restarts the application every time the web request starts. However, as on every request PHP sets up then tears down the entire application, sharing resources may be difficult.

✔️ Open Source

No kind of payment is required for using PHP. This language is possible to download and use for free.

✔️ Platform Independence

PHP code is run on any platform, including Linux, Mac OS X, Unix, Windows.

✔️ Case Sensitivity

At the time of variable declaration, PHP is a case sensitive scripting language. All the keywords (such as if, else, while, echo, and many more), classes, user-defined functions, as well as functions are NOT case-sensitive.

✔️ Loosely Typed Language

Without declaring its data type, PHP supports variable usage. PHP associates a data type to the variable automatically, based on its value. Because the data types aren’t set in the strict sense, it is possible for example to add a string into an integer without even causing an error.

Backend Development Languages #4 Python

Python is a universal backend programming language that is possible to use for almost any task related to the backend part of the software. It refers to web and desktop applications, games, prototypes, microservices, etc. Compared to other backend technologies, Python has a much simpler syntax. It is this feature that makes many developers start server-side software development with Python.

✔️ Library Management

In order to manage packages, Python uses PIP (Pip Installs Python). Pip makes it simple to manage different libraries within the Python applications. It’s fast, but the project’s requirements are still easy to define at a glance. For Python developers, Pip is a great tool to have in the toolbag.

✔️ Environment Management

Python introduces the best applications to manage environments. There is a system called Virtualenv that is used to install various versions of Python. This is an original environment manager that has been actively maintained for a long time.

✔️ Documentation

Good documentation is essential to your success when diving into a new project. PHP offers a robust documentation site with unique features. Developers get an opportunity to contribute comments on each page of documentation. On the other hand, the documentation effectively covers all the built-in features of the language in a simple and plain language. These comments help to explain complicated concepts.

Java vs Node.js

  1. Java is the right choice for complex web-based and highly concurrent applications while Node.js is much preferable for small size projects.
  2. Java requires JDK (Java Development Kit) to run Java. It covers Java compiler as well as the runtime environment. On the other hand, Node.JS needs to be installed through an installable archive file.
  3. Java is strictly a server-side language that has nothing to do with the browser. Yet, Node.JS is efficiently used both on the client- and server-side.
  4. Java is good for OOP (Object Oriented Programming) as it is considered to be an Object-Oriented language that requires to be compiled and run in(Java Runtime Environment (JRE). Node.js, in its turn, is a cross-platform runtime system - the best environment for JavaScript applications.
  5. Java is good for OOP (Object Oriented Programming) as it is considered to be an Object-Oriented language that requires to be compiled and run in(Java Runtime Environment (JRE). Node.s, in its turn, is a cross-platform runtime system - the best environment for JavaScript applications.
  6. Java handles CPU intensive tasks that required huge computational power whereas Node.js helps to handle I/O bound operations such as real-time chat, media streaming, etc.
  7. When it comes to usage, Java is preferred for highly concurrent messaging applications, while Node.js is better for scalable and faster applications.

Java vs PHP

  1. To run any application, Java requires Application Server, JVM, any kind of operating system, or a webserver. On the other hand, PHP only needs PHP Engine, Apache Server/IIS, Operating System, or Web Server.
  2. Java provides application security. In java, the Servlet filter, Secure Web Services, and URL encoding are mostly used. PHP doesn’t have a concept of such security handling.
  3. Java is very easy to communicate with different APIs/ It makes this language preferable for the development of any future automation tool. PHP has some restrictions on the concept of API calls. However, it is possible to call an API through PHP in the upper version.
  4. In the case of page loading speed, Java requires more time than PHP. PHP pages are faster because they don’t take as much load as the JSP pages. So, PHP is preferable when complex logic is required with some public viewable data.
  5. Java maintains a higher cost than PHP. The reason is that PHP is a very easy-to-learn language and obviously, in terms of support and resource availability it requires lower cost.
  6. Java has a very well defined reflection concept, including reusable classes, interfaces, abstract classes, and methods. PHP introduced this feature after PHP 5.0, however, it isn’t as advanced compared to Java.

PHP vs Node.js

  1. Node.js is a Javascript-based framework/platform. PHP is a server-side scripting language.
  2. Node.js is the right choice for the applications that require a higher runtime performance while PHP is more preferable for blogs or e-commerce platforms.
  3. PHP is easy to learn. Accordingly, it is cheaper than Node.js. PHP offers various open-source scripts apps and libraries. As for Node.js, it is better for building real-time and scalable systems.

To Sum Up

With the intelligent usage of backend technologies, web developers build high-quality web projects. However, to choose a reliable backend technology you should pay attention to your specific business objectives the software should resolve and only then make the choice.

I'll introduce cases when each of the above-mentioned languages is a good fit:

  • Java is a great choice for building complex web-based applications. These are highly concurrent applications with an already provided framework created with Java. Some famous platforms that are built with Java are LinkedIn, Pinterest, Uber, Airbnb, etc.
  • Node.js is ideal for smaller size projects. This is the right choice for real-time collaborative editing applications. A bright example of such projects is Google Doc. or Google Sheet.
  • PHP is mainly used in cases when minimum database access is required for a dynamic view or admin management. As PHP is a low-cost investment, it is always preferable for small organizations that mainly rely on this language to start their business with at least a simple web. Projects that are built with PHP are Facebook, Wikipedia, Mailchimp, etc.

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