Web Development Languages?
Ruby is a programming language that can be used for web development through the Ruby on Rails framework. Perl is a high level general-purpose programming language that can be used for web development. PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor, and is used embedded into HTML to give more functionality to a website. Last but not least Python is a software programming language that can be extended through frameworks to perform web services.
Python is one of the most popular programming languages available today, and not just for web development. Originally Python was intended to be a simple, easy to use all purpose programming language that could create complex programs with fewer lines of code. Since the 1980’s when Python was created, there have been massive improvements to the language. Frameworks have been created on top of Python to provide more ease to use, and to give more functionality to the highly functional language.
A couple of the most popular web frameworks to use with Python include Flask and Django. That is not to say though, that these are the only web frameworks that exist, or that you have to use them. These just happen to suit many people’s needs in hosting a web service. To use Ruby for web development there is Ruby on Rails, which is a framework to host web services with the Ruby programming language.
What is Django?
Django is considerably more popular than Flask, but Flask may still have it’s uses. When planning out a web application, one of the most important things to think about is scalability. This is basically how fast you expect your service to grow, which can be based on several factors. These factors include, but are not limited to, how many customers you currently have, or how useful the service will or is planned to be. That is one thing that Django handles quite nicely. If you are planning to build a considerably large web service that needs to scale easily and maintain a fair amount of traffic, Django is the way to go. That’s not to say that Flask cannot be scalable to a large web application. Django just has more built in features that can make scaling the service easier and faster.
Flask is great to use for smaller web applications. Although not as scalable, you can still create some great applications with it. With the Flask framework it is also easier and faster to get a working prototype and in some cases, final product. Flask requires much less lines of code than Django to do the same thing, at the start that is. The rest is left to the programmer to optimize.
If one wanted to, they could even use a simple vanilla Python package to host a web server. The package used to host a simple http web server is ‘SimpleHTTPServer’. Although it does not have many of the fancy features of a framework like Django and Flask do, it can still be used if you do not require much from your web application.
What about security with Python?
Outside of the frameworks that have been listed, Python includes many more security features than even PHP. Your users don’t want to feel insecure about their data while using your service, so assure them it’s safe with hosting a http server with Python. Companies like Yahoo Maps, eBay, PayPal and many others use Python for the backend web services they need. This shows how much the big companies trust the security of Python for web development, considering the services like eBay and PayPal need to keep payment info and address’ safe from prying eyes.
If Python is not your go to for programming anything. I get it. Personally I love using C++. What if I told you that you could use almost any language alongside Python on your web server? You wouldn’t believe me, would you? Well you can! (Depends on language and plugin availability)
Cross language development with Python
Using extensions written in the Python language, you can integrate other programming languages into Python instead of strictly sticking to Python for web development. Although some people may not like, or even need this feature, it works great with teams that have varying skill levels in various languages. For example, some of the programmers on a team may be most familiar with NodeJS, whereas others might be familiar with Java. There are extensions that work through Python that make these languages integrate well with each other for better productivity.
Python vs. Ruby?
Well first off, Ruby is just like Python in the sense that it started out as a programming language to create a native application, then someone built a framework to make the language suit web development needs. Ruby was made to be simple and easy to use, and easy to understand. With the ‘Ruby on Rails’ web framework, programmers can write Ruby code and host web servers through that code. Quite similar to Python in all reality.
Through Python, there is more common than not, one way to accomplish a certain task. Although this goes against the programming mindset, Python was built to be easy to learn and structure the code explicitly to make it easy for the developer to see where things come from. This also makes it easier to debug with Python.
Ruby was made to have syntax that is extremely similar to “human-language” and this appeals to many programmers, both expert, and beginner. Unlike Python though, there are many ways in Ruby to accomplish the same task. The Ruby language also includes unique features that include hashable and unhashable types, mutable strings, and even fragmentation. Ruby’s selling point is that the language is easy to read and understand, and quite elegant. But this can make it quite difficult to pinpoint a bug or issue within a code, making the debugging process quite difficult.
The communities of both Python and Ruby are quite large, but the crowd behind them differ slightly. Python has an extensive documentation and community behind it, which extends to most Linux Operating System users and those in academia for both math and science. Even though Ruby can be used to make native applications, Ruby has been focused on web development from the start. Ruby will tend to innovate quickly, quicker than Python will, but this can cause some of the features in the Ruby language to break.
Although not as popular as Python for web development, Ruby can still be used and is viable for web development. Ruby is popular enough to have a community in which you could ask questions or even get gems (plugins) made to your liking, and it is quite flexible. You can even use other languages through Ruby, just like you could with Python.
What about Comparing to PHP?
PHP was originally made in 1995 with the intent of being a web scripting language. PHP stands for Hypertext Processor. The code is embedded into the HTML page and the script is run whenever the web page is visited on a web server that supports PHP. Web Servers that have support for PHP include (but are not limited to) Apache.
Both PHP and Python support a variety of ways to program things, but Python is executed a little bit different. PHP is executed whenever a web page is loaded (or included into another) from within the page, whereas the Python will output the page to be displayed. This may seem confusing but think of it this way. Imagine you are writing a paper, and need to get information. PHP would be able to gather the information as it executes and output in parts, whereas with Python the information would be outputted all at once.
Regarding the Syntax of both the languages, PHP is quite similar to the C type languages. In PHP extra whitespace (unnecessary tabs and spaces) are not important and ignored when executing the PHP code. But with Python, whitespace is extremely valuable. In Python there must be whitespace to denote blocks of code and how they separate from other blocks, like functions and if statements. This goes contrary to how PHP uses curly braces to encompass their blocks of code.
Regarding usability, PHP is easier to setup and use. There is no need to make separate files to contain PHP code, it can be embedded within an HTML document, but with Python, there must be files with the Python file extension. Since PHP was initially designed with web development in mind, it contains features that can make this easier, like sessions to store temporary variables for users to keep them separate from other users. This makes it easier for beginners.
You always have to think of security when handling user’s data. Python has some of the best security features in modern programming languages, and this makes it one of the best languages to write complex and extremely critical applications and web applications with. PHP has a fair number of security flaws. That’s not to say that PHP is insecure, but most of the time the developer has to utilize other tools to improve the security of the PHP application, which can prove to be tedious, especially if you make rapid prototypes.
Where Python Lacks
Python was made to be a software development language. The possibility for Web Development was implemented into the language after it was made. But it is not always ideal for the goals of some web applications.
So should you use Python for Web Development?
The answer lies in what you need from your web application. If you need something fast but does not need to be very maintainable or secure, you are better off running with PHP. If you want scalability, ease, and viability, then Python is a great way to go, especially since the knowledge can be used to make software as well.
All in all, it comes down to what you are comfortable with, whether you like PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails, or even Perl. They all can be used to accomplish the same task. Python is great if you have no knowledge of the other languages, but if you don’t want to learn Python, stick to what you know. It will work for the most part.
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