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PHP: cURL alternative to file_get_contents over HTTP

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In newer versions of PHP you will often find that fetching remote files using fopen or file_get_contents has been disabled. Here we present a function http_get_contents using cURL which can serve as a workaround.

The http_get_contents function

This is currently a work in progress with some enhancements in the pipeline. It is, however, already referenced from our RSS and Atom Feed Reader code so needs to be presented.

function http_get_contents($url) { $ch = curl_init(); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_TIMEOUT, 1); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $url); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true); if(FALSE === ($retval = curl_exec($ch))) { error_log(curl_error($ch)); } else { return $retval; } }

If the cURL libraries have not been activated in PHP you will get a function not found error trying to call curl_init.

Future versions will include better error handling and parsing of HTTP response headers, to detect broken links and follow redirects for example.

Sample Usage

The following code block checks whether the file address starts with http and conditionally calls either http_get_contents or file_get_contents: $file = ""; $contents = preg_match("/^http/", $file) ? http_get_contents($file) : file_get_contents($file);

The cURL approach can also be used for FTP and other protocols.

Improved Functionality

After putting this function through it's paces we came up with a couple of improvements.

Firstly, you can now supply an array of extra options to be included in the request by passing an associative array ($opts), and secondly, a default value is included for HTTP_USER_AGENT using the name of the calling domain as the User Agent string.

function http_get_contents($url, $opts = []) { $ch = curl_init(); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_TIMEOUT, 5); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_USERAGENT, "{$_SERVER['SERVER_NAME']}"); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $url); if(is_array($opts) && $opts) { foreach($opts as $key => $val) { curl_setopt($ch, $key, $val); } } curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true); if(FALSE === ($retval = curl_exec($ch))) { error_log(curl_error($ch)); } else { return $retval; } }

Passing a non-blank User Agent string is good practice, and sometimes required to avoid your requests being blocked.

Some Examples

In this example we're getting around Facebook's buggy IPv6 interface by forcing the connection to take place over IPv4.

<?PHP $endpoint = "" . urlencode($uri); $curlopts = [ CURLOPT_IPRESOLVE => CURL_IPRESOLVE_V4 ]; $retval = http_get_contents($endpoint, $curlopts); ?>

Fetching and parsing the Apache response headers for an HTTP request:

<?PHP function read_header($ch, $string) { // function to receive and process the respons headers } $tmp = http_get_contents($url, [ CURLOPT_HEADERFUNCTION => __NAMESPACE__ . '\read_header', CURLOPT_NOBODY => true ]); ?>

Note that in all cases the CURLOPT_* constants are not to be quoted. They are not strings, but actually 'long' integers.



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