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Chris Cardell

BrowserShots… no longer excellent

BrowserShots.org was once an excellent service. It’s essentially a web application providing developers with a view of their website design in a vast array of different operating systems and web browsers.

“Browsershots makes screenshots of your web design in different browsers. It is a free open-source online service created by Johann C. Rocholl. When you submit your web address, it will be added to the job queue. A number of distributed computers will open your website in their browser. Then they will make screenshots and upload them to the central server here.”

Recently the service has taken a turn for the worst, with a capital B & S (BrowserShots). I’m not completely sure if this is due to a lack of resources or a concious choice to increase sales of ‘priority processing‘. Either way, in my recent experience of using the service I’ve found that on a number of occasions 30 minutes has gone by without any screenshots being processed (30 minutes being the expiry time of any one job). This is more than frustrating, even if screenshots aren’t provided within 30 minutes, you can’t then resubmit as you’re likely to go over quota.

BrowserShots.org Expired

Essentially BrowserShots need to extend the expiry time from 30 minutes to 60 minutes, increasing the likelihood that at least some of the screenshots will be processed. I realise the difficulties in providing a seamless screenshot service, but I still think it’s fair to say… get your act together!

This entry was posted on Monday, May 4th, 2009 at 12:00 am GMT. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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  • Thomas

    If it’s important enough to warrant a blog post, why don’t you just pay for the premium service?

  • http://doeswhat.com Editor

    Essentially because I don’t want to spend $29.95 USD or €22.95 EUR on something which I use once a month, if that. I probably should have pre-empted that question in the post.

  • Pat

    Nonetheless, where do you get off dictating what a free service should do?

    Pay up, or ask nicely, or, alternatively, shut up.

    Or write your own.

    Or something.

    But why do you expect sympathy from the interwebs?

  • http://doeswhat.com Editor

    It’s not unreasonable to be slightly miffed at a service that let’s you wait half an hour for nothing.

    I realise it’s free. But they’re making money from advertising and developers. I don’t mind waiting as long as it takes, whether that be beyond a day, I just don’t like that a job can expire before any of the screenshots have been processed.

    It’s simply too unreliable for me, I won’t be using it until it improves.

  • austin

    This is outdated, poorly formed information.
    First, they’ve been charging for quicker proc-time or service for years.
    The only thing new is your observance of that.

    Second, they are using their processors to do something every linux based server can do. screenshots and virtual machines. Its 1+1. Simple as a board. straight as $hit.

    Third, Their new website gallery is fantastic thousands of websites in a catalog, ranked and rated, for your convenience. Maybe you already have the best website that money can buy. Maybe you don’t need free stuff that you wait for an hour for.

    Fourth, I’ve NEVER had trouble getting all the shots I want. After making a cup of tea or pot of coffee, I press “extend” and then go take a shower or something. When I come back, I click one link, download all the files (zipped and shiny) and I’m off.

    Are you kidding me? There should be a take down notice for this article. Oh, I’m sorry, I mean your “article” or two paragraphs? The only B & S here is your attitude.

  • http://doeswhat.com Editor

    Apologies. If I’d spotted the ‘Extend’ button I’d probably be feeling a lot less foolish right about now.

  • thesmu

    well, i’ve been feeling the same as the poster – hence me ending up here. i realise that our expectations of free services can be a little high in this day and age of open source lovlieness but you know, if a job’s worth doing etc..
    also from a marketing point of view if a free version of a paid service is unreliable it is unlikely to attract people to upgrade.

  • Joe

    Would be nice if it was 29.95 for 1gb of screenshots instead.

  • http://superphysics.awardspace.com Muhammad Fahd Waseem

    I happen to agree with the general drift of the author’s post too. I just wanted five shots, Not some length affair. And it offered me a queue time of 50 minutes. But it’s free and still the most comprehensive freebie browser-shotting site out there, so we can’t complain much.

    But for IE testing, http://ipinfo.info/netrenderer/ is definitely worth a look. Instantaneous shots from the IE engines.

  • Zack

    I happen to run 2 screenshot factories for browsershots.org.. And when I watch, it is endless.. If you understand the amount of screenshots that proccess, it’s amazing.. The only problem is that the api server can get overloaded and that halts the screenshots for 30 seconds on the factories.. But I produce 50-70 screenshots an hour on each factory.. and theres 137 computers serving screenshots.. And usually only Windows is backed up.. During daytime hours, you may experience issues getting most of your screenshots.. I usually am able to get 60-70 out of 90 browsers even at peak hours.. If you think the screenshot times are bad, then help out.. Make a factory..

  • http://www.browserseal.com Demiurg

    You may want to take a look at this new service http://www.browserseal.com

    Since it is not a web service, but an application there is no need to wait at all and the interface is much more convenient. The downside is that it’s a new service which is currently in a very early beta stage and only a handful of browsers are supported.

    At any rate, I thinks this new service is worth keeping an eye on, as it is being actively developed and new features as well as new browsers will be added in the future.

  • Jose

    “Free” doesn’t equal crap, and it also doesn’t equal “I’ll use it with a proud smile even if it is crap, on the sole basis that it is free”.

    If the default behavior of a service is to make you wait for 30 mins, give you a time estimate from 2 mins to 2 hours and then cancel your request after your wait while providing 0 results, then that is a bad service.

    Is the technical aspect difficult? are resources clogged by all the free users? Should we cut it some slack because it is free?
    We can talk about it, but this article states the simple fact that the free service offers poor value to the average visitor. Gmail is also free. nytimes.com is also free. Some of the most complex and brilliantly satisfying services on the internet are free. On the internet we don’t measure quality by the cost of access. I don’t put in my pocket every twig and chewed-up gum I find on the sidewalk just because they are free.

    And to that I’ll add that the quality of the screenshots is often questionable. In my own tests I get a hefty amount of blank browser pages returned – of course only after I wait long enough for them.

    Also, since the author is too nice I’ll say it: Pat is a raging jerk who should be disconnected from the Internet until further notice, and Thomas and Austin are not very far behind.

  • Josh

    I too agree with the author of this article and Jose.

    The service has become a bit less than ideal for the free user. I see no reason to jump down the author’s throat for an observation.

    Visitors like me only recently came to the conclusion that BrowserShots is no longer excellent and it’s refreshing to see a blog post saying the same.

  • http://www.browserseal.com Vasya

    What some of you fail to understand is the fact that this is part of a larger trend. One can no longer afford to run a non-profitable internet business. Which would sound less astonishing if we were talking about a non-internet business.

  • Dustin

    I agree with the author and I bet some of the commentators here are associated with browsershots.

    I think its a great service. And whats wrong with admitting the service has degraded a bit?

  • http://www.browserseal.com BrowserSeal

    Just wanted to let everybody looking for Browsershots alternative know that we released BrowserSeal version 1.1 which adds support for Chrome and Opera addition to Firefox, Safari, IE6, IE7 and IE8

  • strys

    Agreed, browsershots as a service has gone backwards, the quality is also not what it used to be. That said it still is a great idea and decent software. For screenshots I’d rather use the Adobe browserlab these days (free while in beta) another alternative is spoon browsers or multi browser viewer which has screenshots and have stand alone browsers, but it is a paid service

  • w1sh

    I’m with author. BrowserShots used to be awesome, but now it’s a piece of shit.

  • w1sh

    Oh, and f**k all you people who are coming to it’s defense.

    They make money off ads and paid services, they should be able to afford slightly better servers. Their business model is f**ked up.

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