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Simple Ways of Getting Data from URL in PHP (Web Scraping)

When you need to get data / content from a certain website url (ie. for scrapping, data fetching, or something like that). There are 2 simple ways you can use. By using built-in php function file_get_contents() and using cURL library.

file_get_contents is so far the most simple way of getting data, but it lacks options if compared to cURL library. So decide wisely which method suits your need. If you just need to get a website content, then file_get_contents is the best choice. But if you need to do something more, like setting user agent, timeout, response type, error handling, or to access HTTPS URLs. cURL is the most capable.

Get Content from URL using PHP file_get_contents()

Getting data using file_get_contens() is as simple as :

echo $data;
It basically fetch anything from given address, whether it's a URL, or a file path. But for real-world implementation, every tcp connection does need some time to finish the request. In this case, the script would wait until the request processes finished (sending request, waiting, getting data) then continue the execution. If the connection is somehow failed, the script will keep continue so you will need to handle every possible outcome from the connection.

Get Content from URL using PHP DOMDocument class

Another way to fetch a web content in PHP is to use PHP DOMDocument class. In this method, we can directly process the retrieved document by DOM. The downside is, the content is only limited to HTML / XML. Usually, DOMDocument is already bundled in php so you don't have to install anything.
Using DOMDocument is as simple as :

$dom = new DOMDocument();
$data = $dom->getElementById("banner");
echo $data->nodeValue."\n"

First, create a new DOMDocument object by
$dom = new DOMDocument();

Then load the HTML File using loadHTMLFile method with url as parameter.

Finally, access the DOM (you can read the docs here)

In real world, not ALL html document is well formed. Whether it's an unclosed tags, mismatch brackets, malformed attribute-value pair, etc. Those will raise confuse DOMDocument causing it to throw an exception. To avoid that, we need to set
to suppress libxml's internal errors.

Get Content from URL using PHPQuery class

If you are familiar with how jquery works, this method is the best for you. This class library is originally created by Tobiasz Cudnik. This class implement css3 selector based on jquery javascript library.
By using PHPQuery class you can do something like:
$doc['ul > li'] ->addClass('active-list');
Feels familiar?

You can find more example here.

Beside those three above, there are many more alternatives methods to acquire data from webpages in PHP. IMHO, those three above is the best ways i am already familiar with.


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