piątek, 21 sierpnia 2009

PHP MVC vs. C# ASP.NET or the cure is worse than the evil

I started programming using C++.
Then I was writing stuff in C, C++, Pascal, Java, C#.
When I wanted to get my first job I figured out that most students work as PHP programmers, so I borrowed a book about PHP, wrote a sample application and a month later I was a PHP programmer.
I must say that in the beginning I hated every single bit of PHP. I've never written an app that I din't have to compile in order to run it. These crazy PHP constructs such as $$. Wow, they're really crazy.
What is more, I have never written a web application before. I always wrote some console / desktop stuff.
However, after about 3 months of coding on a daily basis I was pretty comfortable with almost everything I was doing. Maybe not with PHP itself, to be honest - I have never become comfortable with this language, but whole MVC pattern and its connection with web interface is so intuitive and natural that it really became my world. I still think that navigation on web pages is far better than navigation in desktop applications. When everything is identified by URL and I can open every link in another tab, I feel comfortable with interface. When I have lots of buttons and no tabs to open, I feel crippled with interface.
When I see a link like /article/show/123 or /article/edit/123 and I have Article controller and methods like show or edit, I can just sit and write code I need. I just love that HTTP protocol is stateless. I love the fact that anyone who clicks the link, be it a real user or google crawler, sees (almost) the same content.
PHP also has great template frameworks, such as Smarty. It's very intuitive and readable. The most important this is that THAT guys ;) don't have problems working with it and can easily can change the markup without affecting application logic.
Even though PHP frameworks like Cake and basically all MVC frameworks are very intuitive (in fact we were using our own MVC framework), language that drives them is really crappy. I've seen lots of PHP code, even very good PHP, and I've never seen good object-oriented patterns. Yes, there were lots of classes, but concepts such as inheritance, static objects, interfaces or abstract classes are not a part of this world. Classes in php are quite important but they are not strongly related to each other. When I think of real OO classes, I think about inheritance, interfaces that they implement, I see that some of them are more specialized, while others represent some general ideas. PHP OO in my opinion is poor man's OO. The real power in php are its associative arrays.
If I ranted about PHP flaws in its implementation of OO and wouldn't say that I was a strong advocate of not using most of its features in PHP5, I would be very unfair with people developing this language. I was always a strong opponent of using private / public keywords. The main reason was that every time someone messed up with it, we got white page of death on production server. I consider private / public modifiers to be important while compiling the code, but they become completely unimportant during runtime. Even if you declare field to be private, you can still access it using reflection of some kind. In php, when you don't declare types of method arguments, concepts such as interfaces also don't mean anything. PHP function takes basically anything and then tries to execute some methods on it. You don't have to declare interface to be able to execute some particular method on a given object. Well, you just try to execute it.
I worked with php programmers who actually used to think about types of objects they passed to functions. All interface / abstract stuff WAS implemented in the logic but not in terms of keywords. It was convention over configuration, and it worked pretty well.
Unfortunately, when someone didn't want to keep the convention, we just couldn't force them to keep it. And hell yeah, I wanted all people using my code to pass only some particular interfaces as arguments. I was unable to do that.
To sum up, I think that PHP is crappy, but it has great MVC frameworks, nice templating systems and if you want, you can write really good code in it.

On the other hand, there are C# and ASP.NET. I must say that I just love C# 3.0. It has so many useful features, great attributes, lambda expressions, generics. Some things could be better in C# 4.0, but even now it is my language of choice. C# lets you write clean and descriptive code that you would not be able to write in PHP.
However, here comes ASP.NET. I'm not talking about ASP.NET MVC - I have no experience with it, I'm talking particularly about classic ASP.NET. Well, ASP.NET is such a poor abstraction that I still cannot understand how someone came up with this idea. The whole concept of WebForms is really far from what web is really about. How could they come up with a lifecycle like that: page lifecycle (click to see the picture). Honestly, how could anyone make such an unintuitive life cycle and say that it is easier for web programming because it's like WinForms programming?
Most ASP.NET developers think that ViewState and Session are perfectly good places for keeping variables responsible for page navigation. Yeah, it's so great when you click on a page and URL doesn't change. It's so easy to share content with other users. Crawlers also love it! And what is really cool, sometimes you have to debug your application to see what are your current arguments and then you may find out that e.g. you forgot to clear Session in some onclick event.
And the whole gridview thing. That's a neat idea. Take everything from any datasource you have (e.g. 10 million records from a database) and do all things like filtering, sorting, paging, etc. yourself! Furthermore, keep all data in ViewState.
Seriously, how could anyone come up with that?
Everybody knows that webpage is like a real desktop application and all actions should be seen as events, e.g. click. Everyone agrees? Great.
Templating engine? We will show how hard could that be. Even tags are messed up: inline tags.
Crossbrowser issues? Only in asp.net. Yeah, there are lots of controls that work in IE, but don't work in FireFox.
Someday, I will come back to asp.net issue. In this post I just wanted to show how crappy it is. In my opinion, when you write web apps in php, ruby or python, you feel that you're writing for the web. When you use ASP.NET, you're writing these stupid webforms.
To sum up, C# - great, ASP.NET - yuck.

And here comes the final conclusion.
If I had to write a web application that goes public (not some intranet application) I would choose...

... PHP + MVC. I'm really sure that the result would be far better using that technology.

If I had to choose a job and I could choose between using these two technologies I would choose...

... C# + ASP.NET. It's better paid and you have chances that you'll be writing some underlying layer in C# and you don't have to deal with ASP.NET.

I must check this ASP.NET MVC stuff. I hope it will solve all issues of classic ASP.NET.
Remember kids, choose the right tools for the job and keep in mind that all that glitters is not gold ;)
Q.E.D., Bitches!

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