PHP: Get the contents of a web page, RSS feed, or XML file into a string variable

You will often have the need to access data that resides on another server, whether you are writing an online RSS aggregator or doing screen scraping for a searching mechanism. PHP makes pulling this data into a string variable an extremely simple process.

You can go with the really short method:

$url = “”;

$str = file_get_contents($url);


The only problem with that method is that some web hosts have url access blocked in the file methods, for security reasons. You may be able to use this workaround method instead:


function get_url_contents($url){
        $crl = curl_init();
        $timeout = 5;
        curl_setopt ($crl, CURLOPT_URL,$url);
        curl_setopt ($crl, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, 1);
        curl_setopt ($crl, CURLOPT_CONNECTTIMEOUT, $timeout);
        $ret = curl_exec($crl);
        return $ret;

You should now have the contents of the website in a string variable. Note that this doesn’t pull down the supporting files such as javascript or CSS. You will have to further parse the page and retrieve those seperately if you need the whole thing.

Lowell Heddings is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He spends all his free time making sure this site can bring you fresh geekery on a daily basis, and has been doing so for over eleven years.