PHP, by far the most popular server-side programming language, is featured in 82.7 percent of websites according to PHP usage statistics by W3Techs. Giant sites like Facebook, Wikipedia and Baidu use it, alongside much more modest ones.
PHP Market Position
Data source: w3techs.com
PHP popularity has grown especially after the release of PHP 7, despite speculation that other languages might take the lead. Yet, only a handful of web developers use raw PHP to build websites. Most use frameworks that allow faster development alongside other advantages such as system scalability and easier code maintenance.
Today’s two most popular PHP frameworks are Symfony and Laravel. They share many common features, making the choice quite hard. Starting the selection process, we can ask a few simple questions:
- Does this PHP framework offer the features we need?
- Is it simple to learn?
- Does it provide good scalability?
- How actively is it being developed?
- Does it promise to have long-term support (LTS)?
- Does it enjoy strong community support?
Symfony and Laravel: a Brief Overview
Symfony provides developers with a set of 30 reusable PHP components. This allows a high degree of freedom to work in an RAD environment. The framework is suitable for developing scalable and high-performance applications. It easily integrates with third-party applications via APIs and is easy to use with front-end frameworks such as AngularJS.
Laravel, in fact, rooted in Symfony, is the most popular PHP framework for creative development. It provides the ultimate simplicity and is suitable for most developers: even the ones with less experience developing PHP websites and systems. The standard Laravel edition comes with ready migrations, models, services, controllers, and commands, though the Symfony Standard Edition provides similar built-in features.
Let’s explore the headline features of the two PHP frameworks in more detail to decide whether Laravel or Symfony is more appropriate for your project.
Symfony: Key Features
One of Symfony’s advantages is that it offers many scalability options. You can achieve scalability if you optimize propels and limit the quantity of objects that need hydration. You can also reduce the amount of queries with joins and aim for higher scalability if you go on with no temporary arrays.
Symfony can be a faster PHP framework if you use it properly, for instance by maximizing the speed of every feature you use.
Symfony PHP Framework Usage Statistics
Another advantage is that Symfony provides optimum performance and is highly adaptable to user needs. The framework makes HTTP central to how it handles cache. Developers can also separate different parts of a page or an application using advanced features such as ESI, thus getting the best possible performance.
Symfony is very stable, making it appropriate for complex projects at the enterprise level and large-scale projects in general. It can support highly scalable websites, which is an advantage in adapting to fast-changing business environments. It is compatible with leading open source platforms such as PHPBB, Piwik and Drupal.
Laravel: Key Features
Though originating from Symfony, Laravel was designed to use the Model-View-Controller (MVC) approach to building web applications. The framework employs a special mechanism to build queries in an advanced way that enforces constraints between multiple database objects. Its system of controlling versions is easy to use and allows simple migration management.
Laravel Usage Statistics
Laravel doesn’t have to be maintained manually and doesn’t need inclusion paths thanks to an auto-loading facility. The framework’s built-in authentication system simplifies overall system development through a set of easy-to-configure options to migrate databases, as well as for database views, controllers and models.
Unlike other PHP frameworks, Laravel enables event declaration with the help of ‘event object’ rather than by declaring them as a string. This enables much faster and easier web application coding. In fact, Laravel offers a command for almost everything, thus providing developers with extensive code generation options.
Key Differences Between Symfony and Laravel
Apart from the code generation feature that is not available in Symfony, Laravel also provides extensive options for front-end integration. You can take advantage of ready-to-use integrations with Gulp, Elexir, and VueJs. This is especially useful for less experienced developers, particularly with frontend development.
Laravel is easily configurable on the surface but deeper changes in configuration require extensive knowledge of the framework’s inner processes. At the same time, Symfony provides faster configuration options at a deeper level. This is because Laravel tries to keep everything simple, sometimes at the expense of accessibility or core options being more prone to misconfiguration.
Symfony’s components that are plain PHP libraries are re-usable everywhere in contrast with Laravel. Furthermore, Laravel components are not semver, just like the PHP framework itself. This can be misleading for developers having little experience with PHP, where most libraries are semver, which leads many to assume that everything is semver.
Nonetheless, Laravel is still easier and faster to start with, mainly because Symfony is designed with more advanced developers in mind and is more configuration-based. On the other hand, one can still code quite fast in Symfony by using some conventions to avoid a lot of extra code.
Symfony provides support for PHP, YAML, and XML, while Laravel supports PHP only. Also, Laravel only has manual support for factories and decorators. On the other hand, you don’t need to register any services in Laravel, while Symfony requires you to declare your service.
In addition, Symfony requires good knowledge of object-oriented programming, which makes it less accessible to a larger number of developers. Even those experienced with Symfony admit that though it might provide more options to create websites, it is far harder to deal with than Laravel.
So Which is the Winner?
Both Symfony and Laravel are viable options for most PHP-based projects. Symfony might be more suitable for larger projects and is considered to be the most stable PHP framework, backed by an extensive community and LTS. Laravel, for its part, is the most popular framework for full-stack development and has by far the flattest learning curve of all frameworks. It comes with LTS and community support too.
Your choice of a PHP framework should depend on resources and long-term development plans. If you are developing a very complex project and have access to advanced developers, you would be better off with Symfony. If you want extremely fast PHP development and flexibility, Laravel might be a better option.
The good news is, either way you get an excellent PHP framework that looks set to enjoy long-term support and constant improvement.