Easy payments using Paypal IPN


There are several PHP scripts and classes to process PayPal payments using their native IPN (Internet payment notification) feature. Because the whole process is based on the data you need to send via a web form to the PayPal payment processor these script look very similar.

The payment / notification process is shown via the following graphic:


Inside the form there are several required values to process a payment. PayPal gives the advice to post them all to get everything working. The following variables get some special attention:

business = your PayPal email address
cmd = single payments or subscription service (_xclick or _xclick-subscriptions)
return = the URL where the buyer get back after the payment is processed
cancel_return = the URL where the buyer get back if he has cancelled the payment
notify_url = the location where your IPN script is located
rm = how you need the data submitted from PayPal to your IPN script (1=get, 2=post)
currency_code = the currency you accept for your payment
lc = the country version of PayPal where your buyer is send to

There are much more variables, but we think that the other variables (product, order and shipment information) speak for themselves. Find a complete form provided with the example files.

To run some IPN enabled payment process we need a small script which will double check if the data which is send to the IPN script is valid according the data which is stored on the PayPal server. This feature is very important if your e-commerce accepts automatic payments.

The following code is able to check if the payment is valid against the PayPal server. Use this test to decide if the payment is valid or not.

$url = 'https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr';
$postdata = '';
foreach($_POST as $i => $v) {
$postdata .= $i.'='.urlencode($v).'&';
$postdata .= 'cmd=_notify-validate';

$web = parse_url($url);
if ($web['scheme'] == 'https') {
$web['port'] = 443;
$ssl = 'ssl://';
} else {
$web['port'] = 80;
$ssl = '';
$fp = @fsockopen($ssl.$web['host'], $web['port'], $errnum, $errstr, 30);

if (!$fp) {
echo $errnum.': '.$errstr;
} else {
fputs($fp, "POST ".$web['path']." HTTP/1.1\r\n");
fputs($fp, "Host: ".$web['host']."\r\n");
fputs($fp, "Content-type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded\r\n");
fputs($fp, "Content-length: ".strlen($postdata)."\r\n");
fputs($fp, "Connection: close\r\n\r\n");
fputs($fp, $postdata . "\r\n\r\n");

while(!feof($fp)) {
$info[] = @fgets($fp, 1024);
$info = implode(',', $info);
if (eregi('VERIFIED', $info)) {
// yes valid, f.e. change payment status
} else {
// invalid, log error or something

As mentioned before there are some complete solutions available on the internet. If your e-copmmerce site doesn’t have a complex product catalog you should use some static code from the PayPal website. For this guide we checked the PHP toolkit provided by PayPal.

Code condition

The first thing I noticed the code is not very clean and is using a coding style which is based on older PHP versions (f.e. for systems using register globals = On)


After some code clean-up it was possible to use the included file together with my shopping cart script. Static variables are defined in one central configuration file and dynamic files are posted via the form in your web application.

IPN features

This script is written to handle the IPN validation process with different methods: cURL, fsockopen, and libcURL. I tried only the fsockopen option because this method looks good to me and should work on almost every web platform.


There is a “Readme” file with the information about the most important features. A complete guide is not included and the information about subscription payments is missing in all files and documents. If you decide to start with the original files you should check also the comments within the configuration and example files.

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