Thumbnail API

Website Screenshot API in detail

Website screenshots

Website screenshots or website thumbnails or thumbshots are drawn by a browser or browser-like system that utilizes libraries from Firefox, WebKit or IE just to mention a few. If there's no browser libraries behind it, the screenshots do probably not look like as they would in a browser.

Here we'll talk about some aspects one should consider when looking for a good and stable service. Happy customer is usually the number one concern, but it takes a lot of effort to be the one that has good reputation. Yet, as technology keeps advancing, one must always keep developing the services better. Feedback from the customers is the key for keeping them happy!

Queued and queue-less systems

Queued systems, that for some reason are very common, have the instant drawback of making you to sit in a queue. The idea behind this may be (just guessing) that there's one browser that is commanded by some kind of a system that can handle just one request at a time. Unfortunately that's very outdated technology. It's like sharing one magazine for thousands of people!

- Ony one instance may be drawing a thumbnail at a time
- The browser may be a real and complete one, so it wastes a lot of CPU resources (keeps updating the screen etc)
- Often times browsers have bugs that they constantly leak memory, so sooner or later the service detoriates and eventually gets stuck as it runs out of memory. That's the case if there's one real browser that is kept up for making all the thumbnails.

Queue-less systems, on the other hand, reflect the capability of having multiple instances at the same time. There may be anything, from a few to a hundreds of simultaneous services (depending on bandwidth / CPU power / memory) serving the clients. The resources are usually limited, so there cannot be millions simultaneous requests served by a single server. In that sense, the queue does sound like a reasonable way of working things out. Yet, to have a good uptime, the binaries should unload after every request to free the memory or otherwise it's vulnerable to the memory leaks that are out there in the browsers.

Windows or Linux

There's a lot of resources on the net regarding the uptime of Windows vs Linux servers. No doubt, without having a single reference, Linux is the clear winner. My honest advice is to avoid all Windows based services. Still, a poorly written Linux service could be a lot worse than its Windows challenger! So in the end, look for the professionality - the OS is just one factor.

Our website screenshot engine

Having been a linux kernel engineer for almost a decade, it's a trivial task to set up services on linux based servers. Yes, website screenshot engine is based on Linux - the clear winner. Moreover, the engine is probably the simplest website screenshot engine out there that requires virtually no resources. Although the thumbnail engine is fairly new (early summer of 2011), you can count on it! Unlike competitors, we also have the empty page detector.

Empty page detector

Some pages appear blank initially ( is just one example), and there are tons of such pages online. Many website screenshot service provides actually generate empty pages way too often. In other words, they fail at a certain rate. At, we have an empty page detector -mechanism, that actually figures out when a page is empty (or has very limited content). Such a page is not drawn - and delays are applied automatically along with manual virtual screen refreshes until it has contents. If the page really contains nothing, that is, is meant to be blank, the detector gives up after a certain timeout and a blank page is generated.

Modifying the browser sources

Sometimes one needs to modify the source code of the browser itself. Yes, we have done modifications to Mozilla Firefox engine to make our service work the way we wish. Now, from Sept.4 2012 on, we use the WebKit.


The green theme inspired by the saying "the grass is always greener on the other side"

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