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Distributed web crawling with browsers

Project description

logo brozzler

“browser” | “crawler” = “brozzler”

Brozzler is a distributed web crawler (爬虫) that uses a real browser (chrome or chromium) to fetch pages and embedded urls and to extract links. It also uses youtube-dl to enhance media capture capabilities.

Brozzler is designed to work in conjunction with warcprox for web archiving.


  • Python 3.4 or later

  • RethinkDB deployment

  • Chromium or Google Chrome >= version 64

Worth noting is that the browser requires a graphical environment to run. You already have this on your laptop, but on a server it will probably require deploying some additional infrastructure (typically X11; note that Xvfb does not support screenshots; Xvnc4, from package vnc4server, does). The vagrant configuration in the brozzler repository (still a work in progress) has an example setup.

Getting Started

The easiest way to get started with brozzler for web archiving is with brozzler-easy. Brozzler-easy runs brozzler-worker, warcprox, pywb, and brozzler-dashboard, configured to work with each other, in a single process.

Mac instructions:

# install and start rethinkdb
brew install rethinkdb
# no brew? try rethinkdb's installer:
rethinkdb &>>rethinkdb.log &

# install brozzler with special dependencies pywb and warcprox
pip install brozzler[easy]  # in a virtualenv if desired

# queue a site to crawl

# or a job
brozzler-new-job job1.yml

# start brozzler-easy

At this point brozzler-easy will start brozzling your site. Results will be immediately available for playback in pywb at http://localhost:8880/brozzler/.

Brozzler-easy demonstrates the full brozzler archival crawling workflow, but does not take advantage of brozzler’s distributed nature.

Installation and Usage

To install brozzler only:

pip install brozzler  # in a virtualenv if desired

Launch one or more workers:

brozzler-worker --warcprox-auto

Submit jobs:

brozzler-new-job myjob.yaml

Submit sites not tied to a job:

brozzler-new-site --time-limit=600

Job Configuration

Jobs are defined using yaml files. Options may be specified either at the top-level or on individual seeds. At least one seed url must be specified, everything else is optional. For details, see job-conf.rst.

id: myjob
time_limit: 60 # seconds
proxy: # point at warcprox for archiving
ignore_robots: false
warcprox_meta: null
metadata: {}
  - url:
  - url:
    time_limit: 30
  - url:
    time_limit: 10
    ignore_robots: true
      surt: http://(org,example,

Brozzler Dashboard

Brozzler comes with a rudimentary web application for viewing crawl job status. To install the brozzler with dependencies required to run this app, run

pip install brozzler[dashboard]

To start the app, run


See brozzler-dashboard --help for configuration options.

Brozzler Wayback

Brozzler comes with a customized version of pywb which supports using the rethinkdb “captures” table (populated by warcprox) as its index.

To use, first install dependencies.

pip install brozzler[easy]

Write a configuration file pywb.yml.

# 'archive_paths' should point to the output directory of warcprox
archive_paths: warcs/  # pywb will fail without a trailing slash
    index_paths: !!python/object:brozzler.pywb.RethinkCDXSource
      db: brozzler
      table: captures
      - localhost
enable_auto_colls: false
enable_cdx_api: true
framed_replay: true
port: 8880

Run pywb like so:

$ PYWB_CONFIG_FILE=pywb.yml brozzler-wayback

Then browse http://localhost:8880/brozzler/.

Headless Chrome (experimental)

Headless Chromium is now available in stable Chrome releases for 64-bit Linux and may be used to run the browser without a visible window or X11 at all.

To try this out, create a wrapper script like ~/bin/

exec /opt/google/chrome/chrome --headless --disable-gpu "$@"

Run brozzler passing the path to the wrapper script as the --chrome-exe option:

chmod +x ~/bin/
brozzler-worker --chrome-exe ~/bin/

Beware: Chrome’s headless mode is still very new and has a number of unresolved issues. You may experience hangs or crashes with some types of content. Brozzler has not had much testing with it. For the moment we recommend using Chrome’s regular mode instead.


Copyright 2015-2018 Internet Archive

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the “License”); you may not use this software except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software distributed under the License is distributed on an “AS IS” BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. See the License for the specific language governing permissions and limitations under the License.

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