Article

Best Website Thumbnail APIs To Automatically Generate Webpage Previews

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Dan Cucolea
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7 min read

A webpage preview is one of the first things people see when they come across a website shared on social media (or on SERPs). These previews are proven to influence clickthrough rate, which means they should be high quality and have the correct aspect ratio.

You can always create a featured image for each page if you are in charge of a small website, but things can get complicated as the number of pages grows.

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In this article, I will cover four of the best website thumbnail APIs you can use to automatically generate high-quality webpage previews.

Urlbox - Best All-Around Website Thumbnail API

Urlbox is a feature-rich screenshot API that lets you capture any webpage and export the final image in multiple formats (PNG, JPG, WEBP, SVG, etc.).

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Moreover, you can quickly integrate Urlbox with your app or website because it works with all major programming languages, or simply via a request URL:

https://api.urlbox.io/v1/{{API\_KEY}}/png?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.urlbox.io%2F5-website-screenshot-apis-for-your-business

The above request URL will generate this image if you change the {{API\_KEY}} with a valid one.

This screenshot was generated using only two parameters:

{

  "format": "png",

  "url": "https://www.urlbox.io/5-website-screenshot-apis-for-your-business"

}

But Urlbox is capable of so much more.

Your final thumbnail should display the page's actual content and nothing else, so if your website has a cookie banner or ads, you can automatically hide them with Urlbox.

All you need to do is to append the appropriate parameters to the request URL, and your screenshot will be generated automatically. Here's how it would look:

https://api.urlbox.io/v1/Q83xEHeBytTeOQp3/png?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.urlbox.io%2F5-website-screenshot-apis-for-your-business&hide\_cookie\_banners=true&block\_ads=true

You can view all available options in the official Urlbox documentation.

Let’s explore some of the most commonly used features by people that generate thumbnails with Urlbox.

Best Urlbox Features To Generate High-Quality Webpage Thumbnails

Perhaps the best thing about Urlbox is the ability to generate a thumbnail based on a simple request URL.

With the Open Graph protocol (what Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin rely on), you can simply use the request URL as the content of the og

property.

Once you have done that, you can check out your metadata using Facebook's Sharing Debugger or LinkedIn's Debugger.

In addition, Urlbox lets you:

  • delay when the screenshot is taken based on DOM load, when all requests have been finished, or a specific time in ms;

  • scroll or click on a selector before the screenshot is taken;

  • tunnel the request through a proxy;

  • change the viewport size.

These features (plus more) are available to you regardless of your plan. You can use Urlbox for free for 7 days (no credit card needed).

After your free trial ends, you can choose one of the four available plans starting at just $10 per month. This will let you generate up to 1000 monthly screenshots, which is more than enough for a small business.

Urlbox caches screenshots for up to 30 days, which makes the Starter plan the best option if your website has fewer than 1000 pages. Moreover, no request will be made if a page is not shared during a month.

On the other hand, if a page is shared multiple times during the same month, there will be only one request made, as Urlbox has already chaced the screenshot.

You can view all available plans on the pricing page.

PagePeeker - Cheap Website Thumbnail API

PagePeeker is perhaps the cheapest thumbnail generator API in this list. It can work great for businesses looking for a quick way to generate thumbnails, but it lacks some important features.

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PagePeeker Features

With pricing plans starting at $5.99 per month for up to 100,000 API calls, PagePeeker is by no means an all-in-one screenshot tool. Nevertheless, it can help you generate a lot of thumbnails as long as you don't need any extra functionality.

PagePeeker's API lets you save the final screenshot in 5 different predefined image sizes, starting from 90 by 68 pixels to 480 by 360 pixels. With that in mind, you should pick a different API if you plan to use the thumbnails for social media sharing.

Their cache the screenshots for up to 7 days on the cheapest plan ($5.99 per month) and for up to 5 days on the more expensive one ($39.99 per month).

In addition, it can take anywhere between 10 and 20 seconds for PagePeeker to generate the screenshots from your target webpage. If you go with the custom-priced Premium plan, your thumbnails will be generated in under 5 seconds.

PagePeeker Drawbacks

Perhaps the biggest drawback of PagePeeker is the inability to specify custom viewport dimensions. This means that your thumbnails can get distorted on social media, not to mention the poor final image quality.

Moreover, PagePeeker can capture full-page screenshots and mobile and tablet screenshots, but you will need a custom-priced plan to unlock this functionality.

ThumbnailWS - Free Website Thumbnail API

ThumbnailWS is the only API on this list (and perhaps in the whole market) that provides a free plan. It packs some basic features you need to generate thumbnails, although you must go with a paid plan to unlock extra functionality.

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ThumbnailWS Features

Going with ThumbnailWS's free plan allows you to create up to 1000 thumbnails each month. You can specify the final image width and a delay, in milliseconds, between 0 and 5000 (2.5 seconds by default), and that's it.

Their paid plan goes for $49.50 per month and lets you make up to 2.5 million monthly requests.

At the same time, this plan lets you capture full-page screenshots and emulated mobile screenshots. Alternatively, you can manually specify the viewport before ThumbnailWS generates the final image. You can also save the final image in either JPEG (default) or PNG.

ThumbnailWS Drawbacks

Like most screenshot APIs, ThumbnailWS cannot hide cookie banners or correctly render flexbox content. It can work great for a simple WordPress website, but it struggles with anything more complex.

ThumbnailWS can only generate HD images (up to 1280 x 720 px), which can be a deal breaker if you need higher-quality thumbnails.

ThumIO - Animated Webpage Thumbnail API

ThumIO does something that the others in this list can not, it has the option to animate the final image. This is a great functionality if you want to screenshot a webpage with moving elements, but it's not something most people will ever use.

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ThumIO Features

Besides animating screenshots, ThumIO packs more functionality compared to the last two APIs but still doesn't come close to Urlbox:

  • you can specify the width of the final image;

  • export the final image in PNG, JPG, or PDF formats;

  • set up a delay before the screenshot is taken;

  • capture a full-page screenshot.

ThumIO's pricing is slightly different from the previous models, as you will pay for how many requests you make each month, with the minimum starting at $1 per month for 1000 screenshots.

ThumIO Drawbacks

As cheap as this seems, you must know that it has certain drawbacks, as your screenshot will have the Thum.io Branded Loader. At the same time, this plan doesn't allow you to configure the viewport width or capture a full-page screenshot.

Regardless of the plan you choose, you should keep in mind that ThumIO struggles to render some complex websites and can't hide cookie banners and ads.

What Is The Best Website Thumbnail APIs?

The best website thumbnail API is the one that works best for your specific use case:

  • if you want to save funds and run a simple website, then PagePeeker might be your best option;

  • if you want animated screenshots with animated loaders, then you should go with ThumIO;

  • but if you want an all-in-one screenshot generator that can correctly render any website, hide cookie banners and ads, and generate retina-ready images, then Urlbox is your best choice.