Aho-Corasick string search algorithm PHP extension implementation.
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PHP extension implementing Aho-Corasick pattern matching algorithm (more on wiki).

Is especially effective if there is a large database of needles (=strings to be searched, for example virus signatures). Another advantage is that built search structure is initialized before search in separate call thus it can be called more times with different haystack, saving time.

Computing Aho-Corasick in th native code (PHP extension) rather than in a pure PHP manner gives this implementation significant performance boost.


This project is simple PHP wrapper of (or interface to) another project: MultiFast. Sources include MultiFast library v 2.0. No extra dependencies are required. MultiFast library is wrapped as PHP extension loadable to PHP.

Source of inspiration for this project was a great tutorial.

Compatible with PHP 5.3+ and PHP 7.0+.

PECL & Licensing

The original project MultiFast is licensed under LGPLv3 so this PHP wrapper is also licensed under LGPLv3. Thanks to the author of the MultiFast, Kamiar Kanani, who gave me a permission to license the code under PHP License 3.01 for the purpose of adding this extension to PECL repository.


Pecl installation:

pecl install channel://pecl.php.net/ahocorasick-0.0.2

Note the php-dev (or php-devel, depends on your distribution) is required for pecl package to compile.


./configure --enable-ahocorasick

Docker build

$ docker build -t="ahoc" .
$ docker run -i -t ahoc
$ php -d extension=modules/ahocorasick.so -f examples/test.php

Install debugging tools, remote debugging

$ docker build -t="ahoc" --build-arg DEVEL_TOOLS=1 .
$ docker run -i --cap-add=SYS_PTRACE --security-opt seccomp=unconfined -t ahoc

Recompiling, or cache busting:

$ docker build -t="ahoc" --build-arg DIR_BUSTER=`date`.


This extension is case sensitive, thus if you want case insensitive, convert every string input to this algorithm to lowercase (use mb_strtolower() for example).

For more usage examples, see provided testing examples.


$data = array(
  	array('key'=>'ab', 'value'=>'alfa'),
		array('key'=>'ac', 'value'=>'beta'),
		array('key'=>'ad', 'value'=>'gamma', 'aux'=>array(1)),
		array('key'=>'ae', 'value'=>'delta'),
		array('id'=>0, 'value'=>'zeta'),
		array('key'=>'ag', 'value'=>'omega'),

// initialize search , returns resourceID for search structure
$c = ahocorasick_init($data);

// perform search
$d1 = ahocorasick_match("alFABETA gamma zetaomegaalfa!", $c);

// deinitialize search structure (will free memory)


Call with:

php -d extension=modules/ahocorasick.so -f examples/test.php

Results with:

array(5) {
  array(5) {
    string(2) "ad"
    array(1) {
    string(5) "gamma"
  array(4) {
    string(4) "zeta"
  array(4) {
    string(2) "ag"
    string(5) "omega"
  array(4) {
    string(2) "ab"
    string(4) "alfa"
  array(3) {
    string(3) "lfa"


In this repo you can find examples/benchmark.php file, with this you can perform your own benchmark and measure speed up.

My setup generates random haystacks and needles from alphabet="abcdef". There is performed 5 measurements of time spent by search and average is computed. Search structure construction is conted to time measurements.

Script generates:

  • 256 random haystacks of size 8192 characters
  • 2048 needles with 16 characters.


  • Naive approach simply iterates over haystacks and needles, search is performed with strpos().
  • Aho-Corasick approach constructs search structure, then all haystacks are searched for needles.


$> php -d extension=modules/ahocorasick.so -f examples/benchmark.php
Classic search; sampleCount: 10; keySize: 2048; timeAvg: 13.060877
AhoCorasick search; sampleCount: 10; keySize: 2048; timeAvg: 0.174326 s, totalTime: 1.743264 s, memory increase: 272 B
AhoCorasick pattern matching is 74.921962 times faster than naive approach

Speedup: 74x compared to the naive approach.


Documentation writing is in progress.

Basic ideas of the API:

  • AhoCorasick pattern matching engine has to be initialized (ahocorasick_init()) before use and deinitialized (ahocorasick_deinit()) after use so memory is handled properly.
  • Engine has to be fed with pattern matching rules, given as array of rules, either to initialization function (ahocorasick_init()) or later (ahocorasick_add_patterns()).
  • After engine is finalized (ahocorasick_finalize()) or a first matching is performed (ahocorasick_match()) no further patterns are allowed, as underlying searching trie is finalized.
  • When matching finishes, it returns array of matched results. Each entry determines position of the found occurrence and pattern that was matched.
  • Modifications made during the php 7 migration: ** 'value' is the default key when adding patterns. ** 'start_postion' field added to the results. The original algorithm returns the end position of the matched patterns.


  • Simplest pattern looks like:
  • Pattern can be identified, so it is easier to process result from match call. Either by string
array('key'=>'ae', 'value'=>'delta')

or integer

array('id'=>0, 'value'=>'zeta')
  • Pattern can carry an arbitrary object
array('key'=>'ad', 'value'=>'gamma', 'aux'=>array(1))


# Create package for distribution
pear package

OSX Mojave

Since Mojave the PHP module needs to be codesigned in order to be loaded to the process.



This implementation is an open source. If you like the code or you do find it useful please feel free to donate to the author whatever amount you would like by clicking on the paypal button below. And if you don't feel like donating, that's OK too.



Monero: 47BEukN83whUdvuXbaWmDDQLYNUpLsvFR2jioQtpP5vD8b3o74b9oFgQ3KFa3ibjbwBsaJEehogjiUCfGtugUGAuJAfbh1Z