David NĂ©grier CTO

Lately, I've had the need to install a geolocation database on a web server to localize (as closely as possible) a visitor based on its IP address.

For this, I've been using the MaxMind geolocation database. Although Maxmind is a commercial service, they provide a free database mapping IPs to countries. Maxmind provides a PHP geoip extension enabling a very quick access to the GeoIp database.

In this blog article, I'll describe all the required steps to install the geoip extension on a PHP server, on a CentOS distribution.

First, a quick note about Debian/Ubuntu user. They have the chance to have a nice package installed. So installing the module is as simple is typing:

apt-get install php5-geoip

First step: downloading the GeoIP databases

You must download the database mapping IP addresses to locations.
Maxmind provides a free database mapping IP addresses to countries.
It can be downloaded at the GeoLite Coutry database download page.

If you have a Maxmind account, you can download your databases in your account page.

Maxmind provides files in many formats. You must download the file in the "Binary format for APIs".

Note: if you are working on a remote server through SSH, lynx can be useful to download the files:

yum install lynx
lynx http://www.maxmind.com/app/download_files

Step 2: Uncompress the files

You should uncompress the files in the directory /var/lib/GeoIP.
At the end of this operation, there should be one or many ".dat" files into the /var/lib/GeoIP directory.

Step 3: Configure the context

This step is needed only if SELinux is enabled on your system.
SELinux is a security mechanism that will prevent Apache to access the geolocalisation database if it is not explicitly allowed to.

In order to grant access to the Geolocalisation database, use these commands:

chcon -t httpd\_sys\_content_t /var/lib/GeoIP
chcon -t httpd\_sys\_content_t /var/lib/GeoIP/* 
chcon system\_u:object\_r:textrel\_shlib\_t /usr/lib/php/modules/geoip.so

Step 4: Enable the GeoIP PECL module

The geoip PHP extension is a PECL module.
The PECL module has a dependency on the geoip C library that must be installed:

yum install GeoIP GeoIP-devel

If PECL is not installed, you must install it on the server:

yum install php-pear php-devel httpd-devel

Then, you can start retrieving and compiling the module:

pecl install geoip

Finally, you must tell PHP to load the extension. On CentOS, we can do that by adding a file in the /etc/php.d directory:

nano /etc/php.d/geoip.ini

In this file, just add this line:


Finally, just restart Apache:

/etc/init.d/httpd restart

About the author

David is CTO and co-founder of TheCodingMachine and WorkAdventure. He is the co-editor of PSR-11, the standard that provides interoperability between dependency injection containers. He is also the lead developper of GraphQLite, a framework-agnostic PHP library to implement a GraphQL API easily.