Being able to take an on the fly screenshot of an arbitrary URL is a wonderfully slick feature to include in a web app. And while it's possible to rig up your own solution using Xvfb, using a third party solution is much less painful. Today I got to play with webthumb.bluga.net and pretty much fell in love.
It's about as developer friendly as you could ask:
- Various pre-built API libraries to integrate with
- A clean REST API that allowed me to rig up a quick and dirty curl+simplexml solution in no time
- Lots of flexibility in terms of the sizes and formats of images generated
- The option of including some special effects when generating the thumbnails, so they have a bit more umph.
- Both polling and notification models for picking up images, allowing me to choose the approach that best fit my app (I went with the notification model)
- A demonstration on their home page that lets you try out the service on any URL
- A software developer behind it all who quickly and thoroughly answered questions about the service my client had
So yeah, I'm happy I found and am working with them.