Perl, PHP, or Python?

22nd March, 2019 by

LAMP stacks underpin many elements of the modern digital world. This combination of server software and programming frameworks can be found everywhere from ecommerce websites to smartphone apps and media servers. LAMP stacks power Wikipedia, run the digital libraries at CERN in Switzerland (where the World Wide Web was born), and support millions of databases and applications on every continent.

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The infinite versatility of a LAMP stack comes down to its unique architecture. This quartet typically includes the Linux operating system, an Apache web server, and either a MySQL or MariaDB database. These collectively underpin a scripting language, used to create and run dynamic online content. The scripting language in question is usually Perl, PHP or Python, each of which has a distinct history and unique advantages:

1. Perl.

Perl has been around since the late 1980s, originating as a text processing language for Unix operating systems. It’s part of the IMDB, BBC, DuckDuckGo and Shutterstock websites. Although the ability to achieve identical outcomes via multiple routes confuses beginners, the flexibility this provides is welcomed by expert coders.

Advantages: Code can be executed in a single line; there’s extensive community support; it works across all platforms to deliver optimal LAMP stack compatibility.

Disadvantages: Multiple ways of achieving the same outcome makes it confusing; not the quickest scripting language; smaller market share means less integration with third-party tools.

2. PHP.

The prevalence of webpages with .php suffixes underlines this language’s popularity, having evolved out of a tool for constructing personal websites. It’s used everywhere from Slack and Facebook to Mailchimp and Yahoo. Easier to learn than Perl, it’s the language of choice for WordPress – the world’s most popular CMS.

Advantages: Syntax similarities with C and HTML make PHP easy to learn; it’s a stable platform to code in; excellent at powering dynamic web pages.

Disadvantages: Procedural libraries aren’t to everyone’s taste; larger applications slow it down; open source nature weakens its security.

3. Python.

Developed at the same time as Perl, and rather charmingly named after Monty Python, our third programming language has evolved into an open-source platform much loved by coders and developers. A modular framework expands on a compact core language, featured on sites including Google, Instagram, and Netflix.

Advantages: Excels at game development and animations; white space indentation replaces curly brackets for greater readability; offers extensive libraries and a large online community.

Disadvantages: Indentations stop the code working if they’re misplaced; performance is inferior compared to the likes of C++; Python isn’t great at multi-processor tasks.

Of these three options, PHP has become the default LAMP stack component. It works seamlessly alongside MySQL, while the HTML-style simplicity of its language is beginner-friendly. It’s especially well-suited to web development, with CMS frameworks including WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. By contrast, Perl and Python are perhaps better suited to scripting and automation, though advocates of each platform endlessly debate their merits online. Ultimately, the choice between Perl, PHP and Python depends on personal preference and likely future uses.

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