Kohana 3 & CodeIgniter 2

For the last month or so I’ve been developing an app side-by-side with Kohana 3 and CodeIgniter 2 to see which framework fits my programming style better. Nothing terribly fancy; just a simple CMS.

I’ve been using frameworks to develop since 2006, back around CI 1.5.x. The differences between CI 1.7.x (the latest version as of this post) and CI 2.0 are negligible. My biggest nitpick comes with the helpers. I’m lazy and I’m also somewhat speed-conscious, which means I either need to autoload all the helpers my app needs in the autoload.php file (or early in my app) to appease my laziness, or load them as needed to appease my speed-consciousness. It irritates me that they’re basically files holding groups of procedural functions and if I want to access the CI super global I have to instantiate it in every function.

I started dabbling with Kohana a couple of years ago, in the 2.3.x era. I really loved their use of static functions (I’d only had basic OOP experience at the point), but I just never felt comfortable with the way things changed so much between versions. Last year when v3 was announced I had a look through the code and said “forget it”. But eventually I became curious again and started learning it to see how easy/hard it was to develop with it. I personally did not have a lot of trouble learning Kohana 3, between the user guide and the unofficial wiki. Perhaps my biggest stumbling block came with the Database module, which was a complete change from any of the v2.x database classes.

I really didn’t find either framework harder than the other to code for. I was able to more or less figure out how to do what I wanted to do in both. Yes, Kohana’s docs suck and CI’s are much better. For me it wasn’t much of an issue.

In the end it comes down to framework stability for me. And in this case, CI wins, hands down. Don’t get me wrong; Kohana is beautifully written and introduced me to a prime example of clean, well commented code. The devs are extremely intelligent and more talented than I’ll probably ever be. CI is also very clean, though there’s a bit more hacking involved for me to get it to work the way I like. However, I don’t want to be writing my own clean, well-commented code for one version of a framework only to find out the next version is going to totally break backwards compatibility. The lead Kohana devs have stated that there are no guarantees of stability between major versions (ie 1.x-2.x, etc). Comments like “well if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” are dandy, but if part of the reason I’m using a framework is to let someone else worry about the basics for me, why would I stick with something that is no longer actively developed because the devs are on version 342.x?

While I respect progress and not letting code stagnate there’s something to be said for code stability when you’re maintaining a framework. Uber-optimising something is great (as there are repeated mentions of “x function is faster than w function” in the Kohana forums) but if it’s only saving me 0.02 ms of page load time or 0.25 mb memory, I’m not sure unstable code is worth that bit of extra speed. Furthermore, using an older codebase when you’re a one-(wo)man show can be a nightmare, since it’s a lot easier for one person to miss something than two, whether it’s a simple invalid method call or a glaring security hole.

I want to create apps to earn a living and I want to know that my code will stay more or less relevant between framework versions. API changes are to be expected between versions but complete rewrites, with very little thought for BC is just poor project management, IMO.

Please bear in mind that these are simply my views on the frameworks and my experiences and since I’m not a BDFL PHP guru (or something), you should perform your own research to see what works for you.

Update: I’ve posted a follow up post with some more thoughts (and such): https://nerdmom.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/a-follow-up-on-kohana-3-codeigniter-2-the-flip-side/