Comparing PHP and ASP

PHP and ASP (Active Server Pages) have many ideas in common, and I tend to lump both in to the same category: page-based server-side web scripting tools. I use that category for small to medium sized application; I usually don’t choose it for large or complex web applications.

Here are a few points of comparison between the two:

  • PHP is more seamless across platforms. I can develop on my Windows box and deploy on Linux. (I know about ChiliSoft’s ASP implementation for Unix, but I don’t see much point in bringing my ASP code, which tends to use COM objects, over to Linux.)
  • PHP has a great number of functions that a web developer needs “in the box” – read through the manual to see the list. I found that I had to go looking around to third parties and COM objects to get some things in ASP which
    were already there in PHP. For example, the htmlentities() function.
  • PHP is very often available on external web hosts, if they use Unix/Linux servers, at very low cost.
  • ASP is not tied to one language. It uses the same infrastructure to work with VBScript, JScript, PerlScript, PyhonScript, and more! This is an excellent approach, and Microsoft should be applauded for it.
  • In ASP, the dominant model for DB access is to use ADO, which provides a degree of database independence; PHP has seperate functions for each database type, and requires an additional layer to acheive that degree of independence.
  • Code modules in a COM object can be plugged in to ASP or 100 other places.
    Code modules in C with appropriate PHP linkage are only for PHP, and are potentially more difficult to write.
  • ASP is almost always available on external web hosts, if they use Windows servers. Windows-based hosting tends to cost a bit more than Linux-based hosting, especially with SQL Server is provided.

Update (2007): PHP and ASP (now ASP.NET) have changed considerably since I wrote this; I suggest looking around for a more current comparison if you need to select between them now.