If your web site or web application links to outside web sites, providing screenshots to those sites may be a good way to dress up the links. Screenshots provide a visual cue for your visitors and give them a taste of where they’re headed before they click on a link. But manually creating screenshots for your outbound links is a time consuming process and completely infeasible if you want to create screenshots on the fly. The nine services below will automatically create screenshots for your site or app via an API.
- Thmbnl – Thmbnl is a too-cool-for-vowels project from the people behind social bookmarking service Ma.gnolia. Get 1,000 thumbnails served up each month for free, with pay packages ranging up to $149.95/month for 900,000 thumbs. The services powers the site screenshots on Ma.gnolia, and can deliver screen captures in 5 sizes.
- Websnapr – WebSnapr is a services from Construktiv — the German web shop behind another social bookmarking site, Mister Wong. Thumbnails comes in 4 sizes and the service is free for up to 250,000 screenshots per month. The site has served over a billion thumbnails.
- WebShotsPro – Up to 25,000 monthly queries on the free plan, with pay per access plans ranging up to 500,000 queries per month for $85. Thumbs can be delivered as jpg, gif, or png and in custom sizes.
- Thumbalizr – The German service Thumbalizr can actually be used for free without signing up for an API key, though access is somewhat restricted. For a full range of features including custom sizes, no watermarking, and on demand screenshot refreshes, you’ll have to pony up some cash.
- SnapCasa – SnapCasa is a free service (though they accept PayPal donations) that delivers thumbnails in four sizes. Being a free service, there can be a delay while you wait in a queue for new screenshots to be snapped, but implementation couldn’t be simpler.
- ShrinkTheWeb – Free for up to 250,000 requests per month. In addition to purchasing more requests, paid users can also buy additional services like the nifty “full-length web page thumbnails” option.
- WebThumb – Bluga.net’s WebThumb service offers a REST API with wrappers for PHP, Ruby, and Python. Thumbnails cost one credit each and an API key comes with 100 free credits per month. $20 buys you 6,500 more credits, with price breaks the more credits you buy at once.
- Thumbshots.com – $9.99/month gets you 50,000 requests on Thumbshots.com, which is one of the most widely used thumbnail screenshots APIs, with plans ranging up to $999/month for 10 million hits. Thumbshots.com is used by web heavy weights like DMOZ, AOL, and Network Solutions. They also operate a slimmed-down free version at Thumbshots.org.
- Alexa Site Thumbnail Service – A lesser known part of Amazon’s family of web services, the Alexa Site Thumbnail service operates on a “pay for what you use” model, charging $0.0002 per thumbnail — or a dollar for every 5,000. The site can return thumbnails for any of the web’s “top sites” (presumably most listed in the Alexa directory), and any in DMOZ. If a thumbnail doesn’t exist in the service’s database, you won’t be charged and the site will be queued up for inclusion within 24 hours.
Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.
Josh Catone joined Mashable in May 2009 and is Executive Director of Editorial Projects. Before joining Mashable, Josh was the Lead Writer at ReadWriteWeb, the Lead Blogger at SitePoint, and the Community Evangelist at DandyID.