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PHP vs. ASP vs. JSP Part 1

I started thinking about the pros and cons of PHP vs. ASP vs. JSP after talking to an ASP.NET product evangelist from Microsoft while we were both on jury duty.

I have developed real-world, production web sites that run under ASP, PHP and JSP. Each of these technologies offers powerful server-side scripting that enables you to create dynamic web pages.

ASP -- Microsoft's Active Server Pages is widely supported by inexpensive web hosting companies. Plus, there are many web sites and books about ASP with lots of free code. These are nice advantages.

I liked ASP. I was comfortable developing in it. But I kept running into a big limiting factor. In a shared server environment(all but dedicated hosting and colocation), you are limited to using only VBScript for your ASP code. Web hosting companies are generally not willing to let you run your own COM objects (basically C++ programs). So you write in VBScript. While there is much you can do with VBScript, you cannot go very far. Frustrating for a software developer. (More detail about resolving this issue is in my web hosting tips article.) So I started looking around.

JSP (Java Server Pages) -- My experience with JSP was while working at an e-commerce company running Sun, BEA WebLogic and Oracle. It was a J2EE, EJB, Java servlet e-commerce site in an n-tier environment on dedicated servers. Heavy duty stuff that is not for learning scripting. Though Resin offers a simpler, inexpensive JSP solution, I have no experience with it.

Resin is “developer source” JSP, Servlet engine. If you are interested, check that you can find inexpensive hosting that offers Resin. (More about the need to evaluate and find web hosting in conjunction with the technologies you want to use is in my web hosting tips article.)

PHP has origins in the C programming language. PHP is open source, runs on Unix and Windows servers. (Cool, because I write for whatever server my clients already have installed.)

My new Microsoft contact had never heard of PHP. Amazing because PHP is precisely the technology that they should be concerned about. Ironic because what initially got me started in developing Windows apps many moons ago was the fact that Microsoft gave away all the developer tools I needed to get started. Free! Zero startup costs to be a developer. Wow. Apple was the only alternative at that time, but becoming an Apple developer was much like paying to join a guild. I would have had to pony up several thousand dollars just to see the tools and begin developing. No contest.

According to the evangelist, the big disadvantage to PHP and any open source software is that companies do not want it. They do not trust it. Frankly, I currently have three types of customers, none of which are turned off by open source. The first type already has an app server that was purchased and installed during the venture capital dot com heyday. Legacy systems that are not going to be changed. The second type is wary of open source and prefers tried and true, but price matters and these days they are opting for the cheapest solution. The third type does not know and or care what technology I use.

Bottom line is I'm writing more and more PHP and liking it. So are our customers.

Originally posted: January 8, 2002

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