PHP vs CodeIgniter: How Do They Differ?

PHP and CodeIgniter are two popular technologies for web development. PHP is a widely used general scripting language that powers many websites. It has a large community and is easy to set up on most hosts. But it shows showing age and raw PHP code can get messy at scale. CodeIgniter is a lightweight PHP framework that aims to boost performance and productivity versus raw PHP. It uses MVC architecture to enforce code separation and reuse. In this article, we will discuss the technical difference between PHP vs CodeIgniter.

The tradeoff is less out-of-the-box functionality versus fuller frameworks like Laravel. For new web projects, CodeIgniter is a good fit if you want a simple but structured PHP framework. Its MVC model prevents spaghetti code. But for complex apps needing robust features, Laravel may be better. The flexibility of raw PHP still suits simpler uses. Ultimately, choice depends on your project’s scope and goals. Both PHP and CodeIgniter have their strengths in web development.

Comparison Table Between PHP vs CodeIgniter

Let’s find the comparison table between PHP and CodeIgniter.

Category PHP CodeIgniter
Type Programming language PHP framework built on top of PHP
Speed Fast as a programming language Faster than raw PHP due to built-in libraries and caching
Security Depends on programmer’s skills Has security features like input validation and CSRF protection
Database Access Requires writing raw SQL queries Object-relational mapper simplifies database access
Templating Requires separate templating engine Has built-in templating with view files
Routing Page routing must be written from scratch Built-in routing system for RESTful applications
MVC Pattern No native MVC support MVC pattern enforced by the framework structure
Community Support Very large community due to popularity Smaller community than PHP itself
Documentation Extensive official and third-party documents are available Good documentation provided
Learning Curve Steeper learning curve as a programming language Easier to learn as a framework

A Brief Background on PHP

Emerging in 1994, PHP stands as an open-source server-side scripting language, conceived by Rasmus Lerdorf to monitor visits to his online curriculum vitae. Over the years, it has metamorphosed into a potent language for web development.

The advent of PHP 3 in 1998 marked a significant milestone, facilitating dynamic web applications by seamlessly incorporating support for databases like MySQL. This pivotal enhancement rendered PHP apt for constructing engaging and interactive websites.

The 2000s witnessed an explosion in the popularity of PHP, owing to its open-source essence and cross-platform adaptability. The advent of PHP 4 in 2000 ushered in the era of object-oriented programming, enabling the creation of more organized and structured code.

With the debut of PHP 7 in 2015, performance and uniformity underwent a remarkable upswing, firmly establishing PHP as the go-to choice for contemporary web development, and fueling the operations of platforms such as WordPress, Facebook, and Wikipedia.

Despite its inception in 1994, PHP underwent transformative updates in 1998 and 2000, propelling it into the echelons of premier web scripting languages. Its open-source disposition, seamless database integration, multifaceted capabilities, and robust community support have been the bedrock of its enduring acclaim in crafting dynamic web encounters.

Key Advantages of PHP

  • Ubiquitous Support: Runs on almost all shared web hosting providers and servers. Easy to find PHP developers.
  • Flexibility: PHP does not have to be used in conjunction with any specific framework or external libraries. Very customizable to needs.
  • Low Learning Curve: Relatively simple language to get started with for beginners. Very easy to embed PHP code into HTML sites.
  • Speed and Performance: Runs efficiently in most server environments. Quick script execution times.
  • Robust Documentation and Resources: As one of the most popular languages, extensive documentation and tutorials are available for PHP online. Large community support.

Downsides and Weaknesses of PHP

  • Messy/disorganized Code: Without using a framework, PHP code can become messy and convoluted in larger applications. Spaghetti code is common.
  • Not Inherently Object-Oriented: While classes and objects are supported, PHP is not strictly object-oriented by design. Must be consciously implemented by developers.
  • Security Vulnerabilities: PHP applications are susceptible to attacks like SQL injection and cross-site scripting if proper precautions are not taken.
  • No Built-in MVC Frameworks: While frameworks like Laravel and Symfony exist, PHP has no built-in model-view-controller capabilities out of the box.

So, in summary, while PHP is a very popular general-purpose scripting language well-suited for websites and web apps, it lacks some more advanced software architecture and performance capabilities found in more robust frameworks.

An Introduction to CodeIgniter

CodeIgniter is an open-source PHP web framework with a relatively small footprint. It utilizes the model-view-controller (MVC) software architectural pattern which promotes separation of concerns between application logic.

CodeIgniter was created by EllisLab and released in 2006. EllisLab discontinued support for CodeIgniter in 2014, handing the reins over to the community at Since then, the framework has continued to evolve with new versions released.

Notable Benefits and Strengths of CodeIgniter

  • Lightweight Simplicity: CodeIgniter has a small footprint and tries to minimize dependencies and configuration requirements. This facilitates rapid development and deployment.
  • MVC Pattern: CodeIgniter enforces solid app structure by compartmentalizing logic into models, views, and controllers. The framework handles routing requests appropriately.
  • Extensive Libraries: Many useful classes for tasks like working with databases, encryption, sessions, and more are bundled with the framework.
  • Flexible HMVC Support: CodeIgniter’s “wiredesignz/codeigniter-modular-extensions-hmvc” module enables more modular HMVC-pattern development.
  • Active Community: The forum at provides a space for questions and knowledge sharing.
  • Good Performance: CodeIgniter benchmarks faster than many heavier PHP frameworks like CakePHP or Zend. A smaller footprint requires fewer server resources.

Downsides and Weaknesses of CodeIgniter

  • Limited Features: Not as full-featured as more comprehensive frameworks. Less built-in functionality than Laravel or Symfony.
  • Smaller Community: This doesn’t have as much popularity or adoption as PHP itself or frameworks like WordPress. Less support and 3rd party add-ons are available.
  • Steeper Learning Curve: Understanding the MVC paradigm takes more upfront training than basic PHP scripting skills.

Overall, CodeIgniter provides an elegant option for developers looking for a lightweight yet powerful PHP framework option. The MVC structures and libraries facilitate faster, cleaner application development versus plain PHP in many cases.

Now that we’ve provided an overview and background on PHP and CodeIgniter, let’s dive deeper into a direct, side-by-side comparison of these two technologies for common web development tasks and use cases.

Technical Difference Between PHP vs CodeIgniter

Language vs Framework

PHP is a general-purpose scripting language whereas CodeIgniter is a PHP web framework built on the MVC architecture.

  • PHP is a procedural language.
  • CodeIgniter is a framework for PHP.


PHP does not enforce any specific architecture whereas CodeIgniter uses the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture.

  • PHP has no architectural constraints.
  • CodeIgniter uses an MVC pattern.


PHP code can be reusable, but CodeIgniter encourages the development of reusable components like libraries and helpers.

  • PHP promotes procedural code.
  • CodeIgniter encourages OOPs and reusable components.

Standard Libraries

PHP has core libraries for basics like strings while CodeIgniter provides rich libraries for tasks like security and database access.

  • PHP is a procedural language.
  • CodeIgniter is a framework for PHP.

Helpers and Utilities

PHP does not provide helpers while CodeIgniter provides common helpers for tasks like text formatting and image processing.

  • PHP has no helper classes.
  • CodeIgniter provides useful helper utilities.


PHP is insecure by default whereas CodeIgniter provides security features like input filtering and CSRF protection.

  • PHP has no built-in security.
  • CodeIgniter has security features.


PHP code runs directly on the server and is very fast. CodeIgniter adds a slight overhead but still has excellent performance.

  • PHP is high-performance.
  • CodeIgniter is slightly slower than raw PHP.

Learning Curve

PHP is easy to learn even for beginners while CodeIgniter has a steeper learning curve.

  • PHP is easy to learn.
  • CodeIgniter has a steeper learning curve.

Which is Better for Web Development?

So, when weighing all the pros and cons, which technology comes out on top for modern PHP web development?

For straightforward websites with minimal dynamic functionality, basic PHP and HTML skills may suffice. The learning curve is gentle, hosting is ubiquitous, and pages can be generated procedurally fairly easily.

However, for interactive web applications with any substantial amount of business logic and user-generated content, CodeIgniter offers compelling advantages:

CodeIgniter encourages cleaner, more maintainable application architecture right from the start. Trying to retrofit structure onto a procedural PHP codebase rarely goes smoothly.

The performance and lightweight execution of CodeIgniter help applications handle real-world traffic and activity volume.

The included tools, libraries, and helpers significantly accelerate development time for anything beyond simple CRUD functionality.

Features like form validation and security precautions are baked right in and easy to implement.

The tradeoff is spending more time upfront learning object-oriented principles and the MVC paradigm before becoming fully productive. This steeper initial learning curve pays long-term dividends in application stability, extensibility, and technical debt avoidance.

FAQs on PHP vs CodeIgniter

Is CodeIgniter a PHP framework?

Yes, CodeIgniter is a PHP framework for building web applications. It aims to enable rapid development and provide a simple interface and logical structure to access libraries.

Is CodeIgniter faster than Laravel?

CodeIgniter tends to be faster than Laravel in benchmark tests, likely due to its lighter weight and lower overhead. However, Laravel provides more features out of the box. Speed and performance depend on the app’s specifics.

Why is CodeIgniter not popular?

CodeIgniter became less popular as newer frameworks like Laravel gained traction. Many developers prefer Laravel’s expressiveness, stronger ORM, and larger community. CodeIgniter lacks some modern PHP features.

Do people still use CodeIgniter?

Yes, some developers still use CodeIgniter today. It has its ardent supporters and remains well-suited for small, fast applications. CodeIgniter 4 was released in 2019 showing continued support.

What is the difference between PHP and CodeIgniter?

PHP is a general programming language whereas CodeIgniter is a PHP framework. CodeIgniter provides libraries, tools, and structures to help build web apps on top of the PHP language. It aims to speed up development.

What is the use of CodeIgniter in PHP?

CodeIgniter makes common web development tasks easier and faster in PHP. It provides helper functions, libraries, an MVC framework, routing, session handling, and more. It eliminates boilerplate code.

Is CodeIgniter dead in 2023?

No, CodeIgniter is still actively maintained and used today. CodeIgniter 4 was released in 2019 with improvements. Some developers continue to favor CodeIgniter for its speed, simplicity, and lightweight nature.

What is the concept of CodeIgniter?

CodeIgniter follows the MVC framework pattern for structuring the back-end logic and presentation of web applications using model, view, and controller components. This enables the separation of concerns.

Conclusion on PHP vs CodeIgniter

In summary, CodeIgniter emerges as a swifter conduit, streamlining the creation of PHP applications. It furnishes a lithe framework, replete with embedded libraries, fortifications in security, and an adeptly engineered MVC architecture atop the PHP lexicon. In contradistinction, PHP manifests as a more pliable programming vernacular. The election between the two hinges on the particular exigencies of the application and the predilection for a scaffolded approach as opposed to the ground-up coding modality. When tasked with the realm of petite to moderately intricate web applications, CodeIgniter galvanizes the developmental stride. Conversely, for the echelons of sophisticated web applications, replete with a proclivity for bespoke tailoring, PHP might hold sway.

Difference between Other Technologies

Amelie Lamb

Amelie Lamb

Amelie Lamb is an experienced technical content writer at who specializes in distilling complex software topics into clear, concise explanations. She has a talent for taking dense technical jargon and making it engaging and understandable for readers through her informative, lively writing style.

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