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8.9. Building a GET Query String

8.9.3. Discussion

The URL built in the solution is:


The query string has spaces encoded as +. Special characters such as # are hex-encoded as %23 because the ASCII value of # is 35, which is 23 in hexadecimal.

Although urlencode( ) prevents any special characters in the variable names or values from disrupting the constructed URL, you may have problems if your variable names begin with the names of HTML entities. Consider this partial URL for retrieving information about a stereo system:


The HTML entity for ampersand (&) is & so a browser may interpret that URL as:


To prevent embedded entities from corrupting your URLs, you have three choices. The first is to choose variable names that can't be confused with entities, such as _amp instead of amp. The second is to convert characters with HTML entity equivalents to those entities before printing out the URL. Use htmlentities( ) :

$url = '/muppet/select.php?' . htmlentities(join('&',$safe_vars));

The resulting URL is:


Your third choice is to change the argument separator from & to ; by setting the configuration directive arg_separator.input to ;. You then join name-value pairs with ; to produce a query string:


You may run into trouble with any GET method URLs that you can't explicitly construct with semicolons, such as a form with its method set to GET, because your users' browsers use & as the argument separator.

Because many browsers don't support using ; as an argument separator, the easiest way to avoid problems with entities in URLs is to choose variable names that don't overlap with entity names. If you don't have complete control over variable names, however, use htmlentities( ) to protect your URLs from entity decoding.

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