Java will kill your startup. PHP will save it.
Everyone stay calm. This isn’t another PHP or Java is better or worse than your preferred language argument. What this is really about is enterprise technology, for example Java Enterprise, and how it could kill your web-based startup or small to medium web-based business. Further, it’s about how no nonsense technology like PHP (or Ruby, Python, Perl, etc.) can save it and take you to the next level. I could have picked any two languages or technologies on each side of the spectrum, I just picked the two most likely to make a point and get you riled up.
This isn’t a technical write-up for technical professionals, but instead a business and operations commentary (for non-technical professionals) about what young or small to medium web-based businesses need and what can ultimately kill them.
Most large eCommerce, social media, and wiki sites started on PHP (or similar) and still use it extensively, including Amazon, Facebook, and Wikipedia. Over 80% of the top 10M web sites use PHP.
PHP has massive market share and a massive user base over 10 to 1 to Java (remember, we’re only talking web applications here, not general programming).
PHP programmers are more plentiful and cheaper than Java programmers.
PHP has excellent performance and it continuously gets better and in-practice easily rivals compiled languages.
PHP application time to market is a fraction of Java EE applications.
PHP is not a “scripting” language (whatever that means), it’s a fully function, object oriented, web powerhouse.
PHP 7.x is a vast improvement over previous versions and 8.0 promises to surpass all expectations.
Frameworks are plentiful and powerful. The power, popularity, and dominance of Symfony and Laravel is undeniable.
Word Press (PHP driven) is the dominant CMS with almost 60% market share. The next top 5 CMSs, are all PHP driven. In fact, the number one privately funded company in Texas in 2017/2018 was WP Engine who now dominates the CMS world — with PHP. Think about that.
PHP is simply made for the web. No extra servers, processors, hacks, tricks needed. It is literally one with your web server.
WooCommerce, Magento, OpenCart, PrestaShop, ZenCart, Drupal, Joomla, OsCommerce, and on, and on, and on… All PHP. Just Magento and WooCommerce ALONE capture over 1/3 of the eCommerce market.
Keep it simple stupid. To get an idea to market you need a simple, fast, and inexpensive solution that will work now and scale later. Anything else is to your detriment and can easily result in your eventual demise. Unless you’re going to have a site the size of Amazon literally the moment you go live, your best solution is strong architecture and PHP (or similar) in a LAMP environment, not a monstrous, bloated Java Enterprise solution.
Build for scale now, but actually scale later. Don’t let anyone tell you you have to build now with the exact tools you need later because someday you will be the size of Amazon or Facebook (both of which still use PHP and similar languages extensively). What you need now is to design well and use simple, inexpensive tools. If you have done your design correctly you will easily be able to scale later. Facebook started on PHP, is still on PHP, and they look like they scaled just fine. Wikipedia is PHP, looks like they scaled just fine.
Essential actions for non-technical founders and business owners running web-based businesses…
This post isn’t really about Java vs. PHP (that was just for a little sensationalism on my part), you could replace those with any similar or analogous technologies for discussion. It’s about cutting through the hype and remembering to focus on the foundational elements, not the bells, whistles, and glitter. It’s about staying lean and designing properly. It’s about remembering that if you want to pound a nail, you could use a bulldozer and explosives, but you should probably just use a hammer and good aim.