datasette-scraper by cldellow

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datasette-scraper is a Datasette plugin to manage small-ish (~100K pages) crawl and extract jobs.

  • Opinionated yet extensible
    • Some useful tasks are possible out-of-the-box, or write your own pluggy hooks to go further
  • Leans heavily into SQLite
    • Introspect your crawls via ops tables exposed in Datasette
  • Built on robust libraries

Not for adversarial crawling. Want to crawl a site that blocks bots? You're on your own.


Install this plugin in the same environment as Datasette.

datasette install datasette-scraper


Configure datasette-scraper via metadata.json. You need to enable the plugin on a per-database level.

To enable it in the my-database database, write something like this:

  "databases": {
    "my-database": {
      "plugins": {
        "datasette-scraper": {

The next time you start datasette, the plugin will create several tables in the specified database. Go to the dss_crawl table to define a crawl.

A 10-minute end-to-end walkthrough video is available:

Usage notes

datasette-scraper requires a database in which to track its operational data, and a database in which to store scraped data. They can be the same database.

Both databases will be put into WAL mode.

The ops database's user_version pragma will be used to track schema versions.


datasette-scraper handles the core bookkeeping for scraping--keeping track of URLs to be scraped, rate-limiting requests to origins, persisting data into the DB. It relies on plugins to do almost all the interesting work. For example, fetching the actual pages, following redirects, navigating sitemaps, extracting data.

The tool comes with plugins for common use cases. Some users may want to author their own after_fetch_url or extract_from_response implementations to do custom processing.


flowchart LR
direction TB

subgraph init
  A(user starts crawl) --> B[get_seed_urls]

subgraph crawl [for each URL to crawl]
  before_fetch_url --> fetch_cached_url --> fetch_url --> after_fetch_url
  fetch_cached_url --> after_fetch_url

subgraph discover [for each URL crawled]
  discover_urls --> canonicalize_url --> canonicalize_url
  canonicalize_url --> x[queue URL to crawl]

init --> crawl --> discover

Plugin hooks

Most plugins will only implement a few of these hooks.

  • conn is a read/write sqlite3.Connection to the database
  • config is the crawl's config


Returns a list of strings representing seed URLs to be fetched.

They will be considered to have depth of 0, i.e. seeds.

before_fetch_url(conn, config, job_id, url, depth, request_headers)

request_headers is a dict, you can modify it to control what gets sent in the request.


  • truthy to indicate this URL should not be crawled (for example, crawl max page limit)
  • falsy to express no opinion

Note before_fetch_url vs canonicalize_url

You can also use the canonicalize_url hook to reject URLs prior to them entering the crawl queue.

A URL rejected by canonicalize_url will not result in an entry in the dss_crawl_queue and dss_crawl_queue_history tables.

Which one you use is a matter of taste, in general, if you never want the URL, reject it at canonicalization time.

fetch_cached_url(conn, config, url, depth, request_headers)

Fetch a previously-cached HTTP response. The system will not have checked that there was rate limit available before calling this.


  • None, to indicate not handled
  • a response object, which is a dict with:
    • fetched_at - an ISO 8601 time like 2022-12-26 01:23:45.00
    • headers - the response headers, eg [['content-type', 'text/html']]
    • status_code - the respones code, eg 200
    • text - the response body

Once any plugin has returned a truthy value, no other plugin's fetch_url hook will be invoked.

fetch_url(conn, config, url, request_headers)

Fetch an HTTP response from the live server. The system will have checked that there was rate limit available before calling this.

Same return type and behaviour as fetch_cached_url.

after_fetch_url(conn, config, url, request_headers, response, fresh, fetch_duration)

Do something with a fetched URL.

discover_urls(config, url, response)

Returns a list of URLs to crawl.

The URLs can be either strings, in which case they'll get enqueued as depth + 1, or tuple of URL and depth. This can be useful for paginated index pages, where you'd like to crawl to a max depth of, say, 2, but treat all the index pages as being at depth 1.

canonicalize_url(config, from_url, to_url, to_url_depth)


  • False to filter URL
  • an URL to be crawled instead
  • None or True to no-op

The URL to be crawled can be a string, or a tuple of string and depth.

This hook is useful for:

  • blocking URLs that we never want
  • canonicalizing URLs, for example, by omitting query parameters
  • restricting crawls to same origin
  • resetting depth for pagination

extract_from_response(config, url, response)

Returns an object of rows-to-be-inserted-or-upserted:

  "dbname": {  // can be omitted, in which case, current DB will be used
    "users": [
        "id!": "",  // ! indicates pkey, compound OK
        "name": "Colin",
        "id!": "",
        "name": "Santa Claus",
    "places": [
        "id@": "",
        "__delete": true
        "id@": "",
        "city": "Kitchener",
        "id@": "",
        "city": "Dawson Creek"

Column names can have sigils at the end:

  • ! says the column is part of the pkey; there can be at most 1 row with this value
  • @ says the column should be indexed; there can be multiple rows with this value

Columns with sigils must be known at table creation time. Although you can have multiple columns with sigils, you cannot mix ! and @ sigils in the same table.

Any missing tables or columns will be created. Columns will have ANY data type. Columns will be nullable unless they have the ! sigil.

You can indicate that a row should be deleted by emitting __delete key in your object.

datasette-scraper may commit your changes to the database in batches in order to reduce write transactions and improve throughput. It may also elide DELETE/INSERT statements entirely if it determines that the state of the database would be unchanged.

If you'd like to control the schema more carefully, please create the table manually.

Metadata hooks

These hooks don't affect operation of the scrapes. They provide metadata to help validate a user's configuration and show UI to configure a crawl.


Returns a ConfigSchema option that defines how this plugin is configured.

Configuration is done via JSON schema. UI is done via JSON Forms.

Look at the existing plugins to learn how to use this hook.

The schema is optional; if omitted, you will need to configure the plug in out of band.


Returns None to indicate that new crawls should not use this plugin by default.

Otherwise, returns a reasonable default value that conforms to the schema in config_schema()


To set up this plugin locally, first checkout the code. Then create a new virtual environment:

cd datasette-scraper
python3 -m venv venv
source venv/bin/activate

Now install the dependencies and test dependencies:

pip install -e '.[test]'

To run the tests: