Programming Languages for Social Networks – Which One to Choose?

Social Network Programming Languages
This guest column is by Tatsiana Levdikova, Web Design and Development Expert, EffectiveSoft

We can hardly imagine our life without social networking websites like Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest, etc. Such websites have become much more than news portals or tools linking people from all over world – they are now sources of income not only for their owners, but also for businesses that use these networks to build their online presence.

With many businesses being interested in running their own social networking websites, development of such websites is gaining traction right now. There are many programming languages that can be used to develop social networks. We are going to discuss the most popular ones that are often chosen for websites development.


This programming language is very popular among social network developers: it is recognized as a very powerful tool enabling to make dynamic and interactive web pages. According to estimates by W3Techs, PHP is used by more than 80% of all the websites whose server-side programming language is known. Besides, PHP is made use of in most out-of-the-box social networking software.

Major social networks like Facebook and Pinterest use PHP. Facebook started off as a PHP website. Now Facebook uses HACK, its custom-tailored dialect of PHP. The Russian social networking giant, Vkontakte, also developed its own version of PHP – KPHP – to improve performance of the website. KPHP is believed to be much productive that HACK.

Websites written on PHP often face hacker attacks: many people know this language, and some of them turned to the “dark side of the Force” and started stealing valuable data that can be used by their bosses or sold to someone else. One more problem is the direct correlation between growth of a PHP website and a number of servers required to run it.

Notwithstanding this fact PHP remains a programming language that makes it possible to develop a social networking website in a very quick manner. Besides, a cost of such projects is not very high if compared to other languages.


Java is often chosen by those developers who plan to create high-traffic websites which need room to grow. And the main reason for that is that websites built using this language outperform others in terms of speed. Another advantage of Java is that it is platform-independent due to availability of the Java Virtual Machine. Java does not requires a compiler to become readable on any platform – the Machine interprets compiled Java binary code for a computer’s processor.

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One more factor making Java so attractive for social network developers is its great development ecosystem. This programming language also has a big community of developers and, consequently, can boast excellent documentation as well as support coming along with it. Java makes both sever-side and client-side programming possible. If you plan to develop a complex website (e.g. a social network) that will be reliable enough Java is the best choice in this case.

But there are some factors that should be considered before launching a Java project, and a high cost of such a project is the first one to take into account. A team of Java programmers costs much more than any other programming language team. Other factors are high server and client requirements and complex infrastructure that must be developed and supported.

So if you plan to develop a small social network or a community think twice before choosing Java for this purpose.


A high level language designed to be fast to write and fast to run, Perl was developed around three decades ago, but it became useful for web programming in the late/mid 1990-s when developers started to use it to create dynamic web pages. This language has been losing ground since PHP was designed as a language for web development.

However, those who think that Perl is not used any more for websites development are mistaken. Though there are many websites written on other languages, Perl is still made use of. A number of well-known websites were built using this programming language: Craigslist, IMDb, Amazon, and more.

Perl can boast a large and friendly community. That is why it is easy to find good code examples or get answers you need using online forums or discuss best practices with other Perl developers. This language is still live – a new version of Perl (Perl 6) was released last year.

But will Perl work for a social network? Those who love this language will give a positive answer. Indeed, Perl can be used for anything. However, you will need many man-hours to create a web framework that will work properly. Development of a complex social networking website in pure Perl will not only take much time, but also result in significant expenses.


Python is known as an easy, flexible and powerful general purpose programming language that is good for web development. This programming language is used by such online properties as Pinterest, Reddit, Youtube and Disqus, to name a few.

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However, Python can handle only the back-end part of a social network. You will have to do the front-end part in different languages (e.g. HTML) since Python does not support them. There are many frameworks that can be used to make websites in Python. Developers can create their frameworks, as well.

That sounds promising, isn’t it? But is Python a good choice for custom social networks? Social networking websites have many users and many instances of all their pages run simultaneously, thus representing high-load environments. Generally recognized as an interpreted language, Python needs more time to process requests than compiled languages need. So compiled languages are preferable when it comes to social pages.

One more problem is that Python is not supported by many cheap web hosts, while PHP is supported by nearly all web hosts. A cost of Python projects is relatively high, while this language is believed to be a little bit outdated irrespective regular releases of new versions.


Though it is not a programming language, this framework is worth being included in this list. It has become very popular given support provided by Microsoft, its developer.

Some of the biggest social networking websites were created using it. Myspace is one of these websites.

Social giants like Facebook would choose .NET for their websites if they were developed today. This platform has many advantages. For instance, there are many developers working with this .Net. You can be sure that a website developed using .NET will have solid and quick performance.

This framework continues to develop, and it has a large community which provides solid support to all its members and it is very friendly to newcomers.

But there are some cons, as well. One of them is that open source databases and messaging platforms that are commonly used by websites like Twitter often have little or even no support for Windows. .Net is also often associated with its early versions which lagged behind PHP to a great extent. If you plan to continue developing you social networking website you may face great expenses as a .NET project becomes more expensive per server.

All in all, there are many programming languages that can be used to develop a social networking website. A number of factors will impact the choice of a language: a complexity of the project, future development plans, a budget of a project, etc. The first step you need to take is to discuss your idea with a company having experience in social network development.

  • Dave Cross

    So you ended up not answering the question in the headline. Which language would you choose?

    Also, I’m puzzled that you wrote this about Perl:

    “However, you will need many man-hours to create a web framework that will work properly”

    In Catalyst, Dancer2 and Mojolicious, Perl already has three powerful and production-ready web frameworks. You won’t need to write a new one.