Moshe Moshe - 6 months ago 4x
PHP Question

How to improve performance iterating a DOMDocument?

I'm using cURL to pull a webpage from a server. I pass it to Tidy and throw the output into a DOMDocument. Then the trouble starts.

The webpage contains about three thousand (yikes) table tags, and I'm scraping data from them. There are two kinds of tables, where one or more type B follow a type A.

I've profiled my script using

calls. I've placed calls before and after each stage of my script and subtracted the times from each other. So, if you'll follow me through my code, I'll explain it, share the profile results, and point out where the problem is. Maybe you can even help me solve the problem. Here we go:

First, I include two files. One handles some parsing, and the other defines two "data structure" classes.

// Imports

Includes are inconsequential as far as I know, and so let's proceed to the cURL import.

// Execute cURL
$response = curl_exec($curl_handle);

I've configured cURL to not time out, and to post some header data, which is required to get a meaningful response. Next, I clean up the data to prepare it for DOMDocument.

// Run about 25 str_replace calls here, to clean up
// then run tidy.

$html = $response;

// Prepare some config for tidy
$config = array(
'indent' => true,
'output-xhtml' => true,
'wrap' => 200);

// Tidy up the HTML

$tidy = new tidy;
$tidy->parseString($html, $config, 'utf8');

$html = $tidy;

Up until now, the code has taken about nine seconds. Considering this to be a cron job, running infrequently, I'm fine with that. However, the next part of the code really barfs. Here's where I take what I want from the HTML and shove it into my custom classes. (I plan to stuff this into a MySQL database too, but this is a first step.)

// Get all of the tables in the page

$tables = $dom->getElementsByTagName('table');

// Create a buffer for the courses

$courses = array();

// Iterate

$numberOfTables = $tables->length;

for ($i=1; $i <$numberOfTables ; $i++) {

$sectionTable = $tables->item($i);
$courseTable = $tables->item($i-1);

// We've found a course table, parse it.

if (elementIsACourseSectionTable($sectionTable)) {

$course = courseFromTable($courseTable);
$course = addSectionsToCourseUsingTable($course, $sectionTable);

$courses[] = $course;

For reference, here's the utility functions that I call:

// Tell us if a given element is
// a course section table.

function elementIsACourseSectionTable(DOMElement $element){

$tableHasClass = $element->hasAttribute('class');
$tableIsCourseTable = $element->getAttribute("class") == "coursetable";

return $tableHasClass && $tableIsCourseTable;

// Takes a table and parses it into an
// instance of the Course class.

function courseFromTable(DOMElement $table){

$secondRow = $table->getElementsByTagName('tr')->item(1);
$cells = $secondRow->getElementsByTagName('td');

$course = new Course;

$course->startDate = valueForElementInList(0, $cells);
$course->endDate = valueForElementInList(1, $cells);
$course->name = valueForElementInList(2, $cells);
$course->description = valueForElementInList(3, $cells);
$course->credits = valueForElementInList(4, $cells);
$course->hours = valueForElementInList(5, $cells);
$course->division = valueForElementInList(6, $cells);
$course->subject = valueForElementInList(7, $cells);

return $course;


// Takes a table and parses it into an
// instance of the Section class.

function sectionFromRow(DOMElement $row){

$cells = $row->getElementsByTagName('td');

// Skip any row with a single cell

if ($cells->length == 1) {
# code...
return NULL;

// Skip header rows

if (valueForElementInList(0, $cells) == "Section" || valueForElementInList(0, $cells) == "") {
return NULL;

$section = new Section;

$section->section = valueForElementInList(0, $cells);
$section->code = valueForElementInList(1, $cells);
$section->openSeats = valueForElementInList(2, $cells);
$section->dayAndTime = valueForElementInList(3, $cells);
$section->instructor = valueForElementInList(4, $cells);
$section->buildingAndRoom = valueForElementInList(5, $cells);
$section->isOnline = valueForElementInList(6, $cells);

return $section;


// Take a table containing course sections
// and parse it put the results into a
// give course object.

function addSectionsToCourseUsingTable(Course $course, DOMElement $table){

$rows = $table->getElementsByTagName('tr');
$numRows = $rows->length;

for ($i=0; $i < $numRows; $i++) {

$section = sectionFromRow($rows->item($i));

// Make sure we have an array to put sections into

if (is_null($course->sections)) {
$course->sections = array();

// Skip "meta" rows, since they're not really sections

if (is_null($section)) {


return $course;

// Returns the text from a cell
// with a

function valueForElementInList($index, $list){
$value = $list->item($index)->nodeValue;
$value = trim($value);
return $value;

This code takes 63 seconds. That's over a minute for a PHP script to pull data from a webpage. Sheesh!

I've been advised to split up the workload of my main work loop, but considering the homogenous nature of my data, I'm not entirely sure how. Any suggestions on improving this code are greatly appreciated.

What can I do to improve my code execution time?


It turns out that my loop is terribly inefficient.

Using a foreach cut time in half to about 31 seconds. But that wasn't fast enough. So I reticulated some splines and did some brainstorming with about half of the programmers that I know how to poke online. Here's what we found:

Using DOMNodeList's item() accessor is linear, producing exponentially slow processing times in loops. So, removing the first element after each iteration makes the loop faster. Now, we always access the first element of the list. This brought me down to 8 seconds.

After playing some more, I realized that the ->length property of DOMNodeList is just as bad as item(), since it also incurs linear cost. So I changed my for loop to this:

    $table = $tables->item(0);

while ($table != NULL) {

    $table = $tables->item(0);

    if ($table === NULL) {

    //  We've found a section table, parse it.

    if (elementIsACourseSectionTable($table)) {

        $course = addSectionsToCourseUsingTable($course, $table);           

    //  Skip the last table if it's not a course section

    else if(elementIsCourseHeaderTable($table)){
        $course = courseFromTable($table);
        $courses[] = $course;

    //  Remove the first item from the list

    $first = $tables->item(0);

    //  Get the next table to parse

    $table = $tables->item(0);

Note that I've done some other optimizations in terms of targeting the data I want, but the relevant part is how I handle progressing from one item to the next.