2.4. Fetching Documents Without LWP::Simple

LWP::Simple is convenient but not all powerful. In particular, we can't make POST requests or set request headers or query response headers. To do these things, we need to go beyond LWP::Simple.

The general all-purpose way to do HTTP GET queries is by using the do_GET( ) subroutine shown in Example 2-5.

Example 2-5. The do_GET subroutine

use LWP;
my $browser;
sub do_GET {
  # Parameters: the URL,
  #  and then, optionally, any header lines: (key,value, key,value)
  $browser = LWP::UserAgent->new( ) unless $browser;
  my $resp = $browser->get(@_);
  return ($resp->content, $resp->status_line, $resp->is_success, $resp)
    if wantarray;
  return unless $resp->is_success;
  return $resp->content;

A full explanation of the internals of do_GET( ) is given in Chapter 3, "The LWP Class Model". Until then, we'll be using it without fully understanding how it works.

You can call the do_GET( ) function in either scalar or list context:

doc = do_GET(URL [header, value, ...]);
(doc, status, successful, response) = do_GET(URL [header, value, ...]);

In scalar context, it returns the document or undef if there is an error. In list context, it returns the document (if any), the status line from the HTTP response, a Boolean value indicating whether the status code indicates a successful response, and an object we can interrogate to find out more about the response.

Recall that assigning to undef discards that value. For example, this is how you fetch a document into a string and learn whether it is successful:

($doc, undef, $successful, undef) = do_GET('http://www.suck.com/');

The optional header and value arguments to do_GET( ) let you add headers to the request. For example, to attempt to fetch the German language version of the European Union home page:

$body = do_GET("http://europa.eu.int/",
  "Accept-language" => "de",

The do_GET( ) function that we'll use in this chapter provides the same basic convenience as LWP::Simple's get( ) but without the limitations.