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Comparison of web archiving software

There exist many software systems for crawling and archiving web sites. It is not always easy to tell which features different software systems possess or how different software systems differ from each other. The goal of this research project is to fill this gap, by providing a comprehensive comparison of software systems for archiving web sites.

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📚 Data

The current form of this comparison is a Google spreadsheet, for simplicity of presentation and (hopefully) to make it easier for other people to get involved:

The spreadsheet contains filled-out entries for software tools, as well as a list of currently unanalyzed tools. The top three sections of the spreadsheet collect together the most fully filled-out entries, and below that, there is a list of as-yet unanalyzed software waiting to have their full entries constructed. Free and non-free software systems are included in this spreadsheet, and no differentiation based on quality or importance has been made. If you have information about software in the spreadsheet (or missing from the spreadsheet), please see the section on getting involved below.

The meanings of the 3 sections in the spreadsheet

  1. Whole site archiving systems: These are designed to crawl websites and archive everything they find, in an effort to store a faithful copy of the site for later viewing (known as playback in web archiving parlance). The goal is not necessarily to extract data or download datasets, though some systems can or will do that as a side effect.

  2. Data scraping systems: These are not usually designed to crawl a website completely, nor do they usually capture a complete copy of the site or its pages; rather, they are designed to extract information from web pages and/or websites. Nevertheless, the underlying technology is frequently similar to whole site archiving systems, and the feature overlap is similar enough that they can be described using the same columns in the spreadsheet as the other software types.

  3. Single page snapshot/archiving systems: These are software systems that are designed to capture a single web page as faithfully as possible, but not to follow links to crawl the rest of the website. This type of software has obvious overlap with site archiving sofware, and some of the underlying technologies used are sometimes the same.

The meanings of the spreadsheet columns

Capabilities are evaluated as "out of the box" functionality. In cases where a system provides an API or is a framework or toolkit, it can be possible to achieve capabilities by writing your own code in conjunction with using the API or framework provided by the system. For this reason, when reading the presence of a ✖ in a column, it's also necessary to consider whether the capability couldn't be achieved by writing a script or program that uses the API.

  • Name: The most common name for the software.

  • Open source?: The open source license for the software, if it is open source; if it is not open source, then this column will have a cross in it; and if it is some kind of mix (such as a for-pay service that uses an open-source tool at its core), then it will have the symbol ½.

  • Source repo: Link to source code repository (if the software is open source).

  • Operating system(s): Operating systems on which the software can run.

  • Primary dev. language: The primary language in which the software is written.

  • Target audience: What type of user is the software primarily intended for? The value user means individuals; enterprise means institutions or other organizations. Usually, enterprise means the software requires non-trivial infrastructure setup and there is a pricing model for organizations (e.g., offering subscriptions). Of course, a user could also be a user at an institution, so these are not mutually-exclusive categories. Instead, this column is meant to address the question "if I'm an individual, will I likely be able to set this up and use it?"

  • CLI: Whether the software offers a command-line interface.

  • GUI: Whether the software offers a graphical user interface.

  • WUI: Whether the software offers a web-based user interface.

  • Library API: Does it provide an explicit libary interface? (i.e., does it provide an API so that you can use it in your own program?)

  • Network API: Whether the software offers a way to control its operation at run-time, either via a separate client program or via a well-defined RPC mechanism.

  • Extensibility framework: Whether the base software can be extended via plug-ins or some other relatively easy way.

  • Parallel crawling: Can the software itself harvest website data from multiple sites in parallel? (Note that this does not refer to trivial parallelism that one can achieve by running multiple copies of the software; this refers to whether the software itself is designed for doing parallel crawling.)

  • Scheduled crawling: Does the software provide a way to schedule crawls, for example, based on the time of day?

  • Crawl storage format(s): Storage format(s) in which web archiving results are stored.

  • Capture raw response: Does the software capture and archive the raw HTTP server responses along with the web page content?

  • Follow links: Will it follow links in the page, to process other nearby pages?

  • URL filtering: Does the software offer a way to filter the URLs to be crawled/scraped/harvested using rules, regular expressions, or other filter scheme?

  • Advanced filtering: Does the software offer a way to filter what is scraped based on more than URL patterns, such as document types, size of documents, document content, etc.?

  • Extract links from JavaScript: Can the software read the text of JavaScript (even if it can't execute the JavaScript) and extract links/URLs from the text?

  • Run JavaScript: Can the software run JavaScript (e.g., using a headless browser, PhantomJS, or some other technology)?

  • Handle React: Can it handle reactive JavaScript frameworks like React?

  • Extract links from Flash: Can the software analyze Adobe Flash content to extract links/URLs?

  • Run Flash: Can the software run Adobe Flash content?

  • Targeted scraping: Can the user specify how subregions of web pages should be processed? (e.g., using some kind of rule-based scraping or pattern languages like XPath.)

  • Manual form interaction: Can the user define ways of interacting with web forms? This typically means describing web page scraping procedures. Usually these are defined using a scripting language of some kind, but some software systems offer using a visual GUI to define scraping procedures.

  • Auto form extraction: Can the software automatically infer how to interact with web forms, and interrogate the data resource behind the web form?

  • Browse: Does the software offer a way to browse the archives it creates?

  • Playback: Does the software offer a way to view/playback the contents of archives it creates?

  • Full-text search: Does the software offer a way to search the contents of the archives it creates?

  • Notable users: List of notable users or organizations that use the software.

  • Notes and comments: Miscellaneous comments and notes.

  • Evaluation date: Last date when the content of this entry was reviewed and/or updated.

👋 Get involved

Please help us improve this resource! We welcome additions and corrections. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Leave a comment on the spreadsheet. You can use Google docs' built-in facility for putting comments into spreadsheet cells, and tell us something that way.

  • Log an issue in this repo.

  • Contact us directly: you can join the archivers.space Slack or email mhucka or b5.

Please make sure to follow the general EDGI code of conduct for involvement in this work.