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gqserv - a centralised mechanism for querying google

Background and Motivation

This code was written back when I was a postgrad student in UCD. Our research group was doing research into the link structure of the web and we were scraping results from Google (Google didn't have any apis at this stage). It wasn't long before Google banned our ip addresses. Our supervisor got in touch with them and they agreed to let us scrape the google search results under the following conditions:

  1. It all came from a single specified ip address
  2. It took place during specified off-peak times
  3. It was throttled to a specific rate

So this code was used by members of our research group to queue and retrieve Google search results in a way that met the above conditions.


gqserv allows the centralised pooling of google queries and caching of retrieved results. Queries are submitted to gqserv and queued. They are retrieved from google(in xml format) during off-peak hours and cached. Cached queries are then available to users. Interaction with gqserv is through a socket interface. There are also command line tools for accessing gqserv: gqclient, gqsubmit and gqretrieve.

The socket interface

gqserv operates as a socket server. To use the server directly, the client program must open a socket connection to the appropriate port. The client then sends a command to the server. The server executes the command and returns a status message. The first character of the returned message indicated success(1) or failure(0) of the command.

Commands sent to the server are required to be in netstring format.

The format of a netstring is:


Length is the decimal representation in ascii of the number of characters in the string. A colon follows the length, then comes the actual string and then a terminating comma for simple error check. So the string

"hello world!"

would actually be transmitted as

"12:hello world!,"

Strings sent to gqserv should be in encoded in netstring format before transmission and strings received should be decoded from netstring format.

Available Commands

Commands sent to the server are of the format

command [keyword1 keyword2 keyword3 ...] [param: parameter1 param: parameter2 ...]

command is the actual command to be performed by the server. A sequence of keywords makes up the query. Optional parameters can be listed after the query. The parameters must come after the query.

The following commands are recognised by the server:

  • add_query
  • add_query_force
  • retrieve_query
  • queue_stat
  • queue_contents


Adds a query to the gqserv queue. E.g.

add_query hello world param:num=50

This adds the query 'hello world' to the queue with the google parameter num set to 50 to return 50 results. When the query is retrieved it is stored in the cache.


Retrieves a query from the cache if it exists. E.g.

retrieve_query hello world param: num=50

retrieves the above query from the cache. Do not try to access the cache directly.


Same as add_query except that it adds a query to the gqserv queue even if it is already in the cache.


Returns some gqserv queue statistics


Returns the currents of the gqserv queue


gqclient is an tool for interactively sending commands to gqserv. It has two optional arguments.

gqclient [-h host] [-p port]

Here is a sample gqclient session:

[aidan@smi gqserv]$ ./
port: 8081 
Send: asdas asda 
Returned: 0 UNKNOWN COMMAND:asdas
Send: queue_stat 
Returned: 0 items in queue 
Send: add_query hello world 
Returned: 1 ADDED: hello_world_ 
Send: add_query the hellacopters param: num=50 
Returned: 1 ADDED: the_hellacopters_param:_num=50_ 
Send: retrieve_query hello world 
Returned: 0 QUERY NOT IN CACHE hello_world_ 
Send: queue_contents 
Returned: ['hello_world_', 'the_hellacopters_param:_num=50_']

gqsubmit and gqretrieve

These are command line tools for submitting and retrieving multiple queries.

gqsubmit [-h hostname] [-p port] filename

gqretrieve [-h hostname] [-p port] filename

The input file should contain one query per line. Run gqsubmit to submit all the queries in the file to gqserv. Running gqretrieve the next day will retrieve all the queries and save each one in an individual file in the current directory. The filename will be the query with spaces replaced by underscores. Here is an example query file:

the hellacopters 
monster magnet 
macos vs linux param: num=50 
hello world :param num=20 param: start=10 
liverpool f.c. 
i hate man united


  • Software has not been tested much
  • Server is multithreaded, but has not been load tested
  • File contains gqserv configuration information
  • If in doubt, UTSL (use the source luke...)
  • bug-reports, feature requests to


Dont assume the page returned by google is ok! Check the headers for errors or check that the start is xml.


A centralised mechanism for querying google, caching queries and results






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