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Creating and Using Browser Profiles

Browsertrix Crawler can use existing browser profiles when running a crawl. This allows the browser to be pre-configured by logging in to certain sites or changing other settings, before running a crawl. By creating a logged in profile, the actual login credentials are not included in the crawl, only (temporary) session cookies.

Interactive Profile Creation

Interactive profile creation is used for creating profiles of more complex sites, or logging in to multiple sites at once.

To use this mode, don't specify --username or --password flags and expose two ports on the Docker container to allow DevTools to connect to the browser and to serve a status page.

In profile creation mode, Browsertrix Crawler launches a browser which uses a VNC server (via noVNC) running on port 6080 to provide a 'remote desktop' for interacting with the browser.

After interactively logging into desired sites or configuring other settings, Create Profile should be clicked to initiate profile creation. Browsertrix Crawler will then stop the browser, and save the browser profile.

To start in interactive profile creation mode, run:

docker run -p 6080:6080 -p 9223:9223 -v $PWD/crawls/profiles:/crawls/profiles/ -it webrecorder/browsertrix-crawler create-login-profile --url ""

Then, open a browser pointing to http://localhost:9223/ and use the embedded browser to log in to any sites or configure any settings as needed.

Click Create Profile at the top when done. The profile will then be created in ./crawls/profiles/profile.tar.gz containing the settings of this browsing session.

It is also possible to use an existing profile via the --profile flag. This allows previous browsing sessions to be extended as needed.

docker run -p 6080:6080 -p 9223:9223 -v $PWD/crawls/profiles:/crawls/profiles -it webrecorder/browsertrix-crawler create-login-profile --url "" --filename "/crawls/profiles/newProfile.tar.gz" --profile "/crawls/profiles/oldProfile.tar.gz"

Headless vs Headful Profiles

Browsertrix Crawler supports both headful and headless crawling. We have historically recommended using headful crawling to be most accurate to user experience, however, headless crawling may be faster and in recent versions of Chromium-based browsers should be much closer in fidelity to headful crawling.

To use profiles in headless mode, profiles should also be created with --headless flag.

When creating browser profile in headless mode, Browsertrix will use the devtools protocol on port 9222 to stream the browser interface.

To create a profile in headless mode, run:

docker run -p 9222:9222 -p 9223:9223 -v $PWD/crawls/profiles:/crawls/profiles/ -it webrecorder/browsertrix-crawler create-login-profile --headless --url ""

Automated Profile Creation for User Login

If the --automated flag is provided, Browsertrix Crawler will attempt to create a profile automatically after logging in to sites with a username and password. The username and password can be provided via --username and --password flags or, if omitted, from a command-line prompt.

When using --automated or --username / --password, Browsertrix Crawler will not launch an interactive browser and instead will attempt to finish automatically.

The automated profile creation system will log in to a single website with supplied credentials and then save the profile.

The script profile creation system also take a screenshot so you can check if the login succeeded.

Example: Launch a browser and login to the Mastodon instance

To automatically created a logged-in browser profile, run:

docker run -v $PWD/crawls/profiles:/crawls/profiles -it webrecorder/browsertrix-crawler create-login-profile --url ""

The script will then prompt you for login credentials, attempt to login, and create a tar.gz file in ./crawls/profiles/profile.tar.gz.

  • The --url parameter should specify the URL of a login page.

  • To specify a custom filename, pass along --filename parameter.

  • To specify the username and password on the command line (for automated profile creation), pass --username and --password flags.

  • To specify headless mode, add the --headless flag. Note that for crawls run with --headless flag, it is recommended to also create the profile with --headless to ensure the profile is compatible.

  • To specify the window size for the profile creation embedded browser, specify --windowSize WIDTH,HEIGHT. (The default is 1600x900)

The profile creation script attempts to detect the username and password fields on a site as generically as possible, but may not work for all sites.

Using Browser Profile with a Crawl

To use a previously created profile with a crawl, use the --profile flag or profile option. The --profile flag can then be used to specify any Brave Browser profile stored as a tarball. Using profiles created with same or older version of Browsertrix Crawler is recommended to ensure compatibility. This option allows running a crawl with the browser already pre-configured, logged in to certain sites, language settings configured, etc.

After running the above command, you can now run a crawl with the profile, as follows:

docker run -v $PWD/crawls:/crawls/ -it webrecorder/browsertrix-crawler crawl --profile /crawls/profiles/profile.tar.gz --url --generateWACZ --collection test-with-profile

Profiles can also be loaded from an http/https URL, eg. --profile