Python and PHP: Giving a Rat's Ass

Annika Backstrom
in misc, on 1 June 2011. It is tagged #Programming, #PHP, and #python.

So this happened:

I'm not going to stand up in a very strong defense of PHP. There is plenty wrong with it, but its popularity is due to its low barrier to entry:

  • It's ubiquitous in cheap shared hosting environments
  • It's easy to create your first script (create a .php file in the web directory)
  • There are a plethora of tutorials

This attracts a pretty scary demographic: the non-programmer. Just look at the PHP questions on Stack Overflow. On any given day it's a complete mess, a land where HTML is intermingled with PHP and everyone is using the old-school MySQL API. Separation of concerns, escaping data, MVC, OOP, and any number of other concepts are above these users, for now. They're just trying to get something on the page in the way their language seems to encourage.

The crux, then: if your language has a high barrier to entry, you effectively lock out some portion of unskilled users. Saying you don't want to "compete" with PHP means retaining your high barrier to entry. Is it better to attract programmers who already have some ability, or to encourage a wider installed base? Would you rather tell a newbie, "Write your app with PHP, it's easy" or "Write your app with Python, it's good?" I prefer the latter.