I wrote a web spider that I would like to download and parse pages concurrently. Here is what I am trying to achieve:

  1. instantiate a new instance of the class with the $startURL as the constructor
  2. spider $startURL with the public concurrentSpider() function
  3. foreach of the links found at that that URL, fork php, and in the child instantiate a new object for each of those links and spider it as well, concurrently.

If the $startURL has 3 links, for example, I'm expecting for 3 processes to run simultaneously to retrieve the links from those pages. If each of those pages has 3 links, then I'm expecting 9 to then run simultaneously.

Here is the code. There is only one public function, and the foreeach in the public concurrentSpider($url) function is where I am having problems, but I have included in entire class to be thorough.

class ConcurrentSpider {

    private $startURL;

    const DELAY = 1;
    const SLEEPTIME = 1;

    private $maxChildren = 1;
    private $children = array();

    function __construct($url) {

        // this is important if ALLOW_OFFSITE is FALSE
        // so that we have something to compare the url too.
        $this->startURL = $url;

    public function concurrentSpider($url) {

        // STEP 1:
        // Download the $url
        $pageData = http_get($url, $ref = '');

        if (!$this->checkIfSaved($url)) {
            $this->save_link_to_db($url, $pageData);


        // STEP 2:
        // extract all links from this url's page data
        $linksOnThisPage = $this->harvest_links($url, $pageData);

        // STEP 3:
        // Check the links array from STEP 2 to see if the pages have
        // already been saved or is excluded because of any other
        // logic from the excluded_link() function
        $filteredLinks = $this->filterLinks($linksOnThisPage);

        // STEP 4: loop through each of the links and
        // repeat the process
        foreach ($filteredLinks as $filteredLink) {

            $pid = pcntl_fork();
            switch ($pid) {
                case -1:
                    print "Could not fork!\n";
                case 0:
                    print "In child with PID: " . getmypid() . " processing $filteredLink \n";
                    // the above didn't work. let's try creating a new object
                    // child unique variable based on $pid

                    $var[$pid] = new ConcurrentSpider($this->startURL);

                    // print "$pid In the parent\n";
                    // Add an element to the children array
                    $this->children[$pid] = $pid;
                    // If the maximum number of children has been
                    // achieved, wait until one or more return
                    // before continuing.                        

                    while (count($this->children) >= $this->maxChildren) {
                        $pid = pcntl_waitpid(0, $status);

     * extract URLs from a web page.
     * @param type $pageData
     * @return type array $links on success, false on failure
    private function harvest_links($url, $pageData) {

        $link_array = array();

        //get page base for $url
        $page_base = ResolveAddresses::get_base_page_address($url);

        $anchor_tags = parse_array($pageData['FILE'], '<a', '</a>', EXCL);
        //Put http attributes for each tag in array
        for ($xx = 0; $xx < count($anchor_tags); $xx++) {
            $href = get_attribute($anchor_tags[$xx], "href");
            $resolved_address = ResolveAddresses::resolve_address($href, $page_base);
            $link_array[] = $resolved_address;

        return $link_array;

     * Take an array of links and filter out
     * the ones that are not needed based on the
     * logic of the exclude_link() function.
     * @param array $links
     * @return array
    private function filterLinks(array $links) {
        $filteredLinks = array();
        foreach ($links as $link) {
            if (!$this->exclude_link($link, $filteredLinks)) {
                $filteredLinks[] = $link;
        return $filteredLinks;

    private function exclude_link($link, array $currentArray) {
        // TODO have this read from a file
        $exclusion_array = array();

        $exclude = FALSE;

        if (in_array($link, $currentArray)) {
            $exclude = true;

        // Exclude links that are Javascript commands
        if (stristr($link, "javascript")) {
            echo "Ignored JavaScript fuction: $link\n";
            $exclude = true;

        // Exclude links that contain #
        if (stristr($link, "#")) {
            echo "Ignored # in $link\n";
            $exclude = true;

        // Exclude links found in $exclusion_array
        for ($xx = 0; $xx < count($exclusion_array); $xx++) {
            if (stristr($link, $exclusion_array[$xx])) {
                echo "Ignored excluded link: $link\n";
                $exclude = true;

        // Exclude offsite links if requested
        if (self::ALLOW_OFFSITE === FALSE) {
            if ($this->get_domain($link) != $this->get_domain($this->startURL)) {
                //print get_domain($link) . " ". get_domain($SEED_URL)."\n";
                echo "Ignored offsite link: $link\n";
                $exclude = true;

        if ($exclude === FALSE) {
            // print "Added new link: $link \n";

        return $exclude;

     * Compare against $startURL to make sure we are on same domain name.
     * @param type $url
     * @return type
    private function get_domain($url) {
        // Remove protocol from $url
        $url = str_replace("http://", "", $url);
        $url = str_replace("https://", "", $url);

        // Remove page and directory references
        if (stristr($url, "/"))
            $url = substr($url, 0, strpos($url, "/"));

        return $url;

    private function checkIfSaved($url) {
        // Exclude redundant links
        // Check the database to see if the link was already saved.

        $sql = "select count(id) from url_data where url = '$url'";
        $result = $conn->prepare($sql);
        $number_of_rows = $result->fetchColumn();
        if ($number_of_rows > 0) {
            //print" Link: $link already exists in database\n";
            return true;

        return FALSE;

    private function save_link_to_db($link, array $downloaded_data) {

        $sql = "insert into url_data values('', :raw_html, :stripped_html, :status, :error, :URL, 'N')";

        $ps = $dbh->prepare($sql);

        // TODO test for success PDO execute statement
        $ps->execute(array(':raw_html' => preg_replace('/\s+/', ' ', strip_tags($downloaded_data['FILE'])),
            // serialize the entire array if we want all status data. for now, just
            // http return code is fine.
            //':status' => serialize($downloaded_data['STATUS']),
            ':status' => $downloaded_data['STATUS']['http_code'],
            ':error' => $downloaded_data['ERROR'],
            ':stripped_html' => preg_replace('/\s+/', ' ', strip_tags($downloaded_data['FILE'])),
            ':URL' => $link));


Note the print statement in the child. This is a sample of that print out. $filteredLink is always the same link, which is element 0 of the filteredLinks array in the parent.

In child with PID: 4333 processing http://site.com/link.html 
In child with PID: 4334 processing http://site.com/link.html 
In child with PID: 4335 processing http://site.com/link.html

This seems to be an infinite loop.

In the child, however, if I comment out the instantiation and use of the object, like this:

//$var[$pid] = new ConcurrentSpider($this->startURL);

then the print statement prints correctly, and $filteredLink is link1.html, link2.html, link3.html, etc.

What about my logic of trying to instantiate and use a new object in the child is causing it to loop indefinitely?


1 Answer 1


It look like the first link on every page of the site is the same (e.g. the link on a logo) and the children processes are simply printing this (correctly) so it looks like incorrect behavior, but isn't.


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