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DZone.com: Java PHP Python -- Which is "Faster In General"?

Note: This article was originally published at PHPDeveloper on 8 January 2011.
PHPDeveloper

On the Java DZone.com section today there's a "which is faster" post comparing PHP, Java and Python. No, it's not quite what you're expecting - I'd suggest reading on.

Sigh. What a difficult question. There are numerous incarnations on StackOverflow. All nearly unanswerable. The worst part is questions where they add the "in general" qualifier. Which is "faster in general" is essentially impossible to answer. And yet, the question persists. There are three rules for figuring out which is faster. And there are three significant problems that make these rules inescapable.

His three rules are:

  • Languages don't have speeds. Implementations have speeds.
  • Statistics Aren't a Panacea.
  • Benchmarking Is Hard.

He seems to hit most of the issues with these sort of "faster" posts up front and notes that, while benchmarks can be run on a lot of different aspects about the languages, the results depend on how you slice it. His suggestion is, instead, to not try to compare the languages in a grand sense. Take each of them and compare them on specific tasks and let those results stand alone. Each of the three languages is going to be better at something than the other two.