Creating a small thumbnail image of a website can be a useful task. This is particularly the case with sites that are directories of websites. A thumbnail helps give the user some idea about the content of a site that they might click to visit.
Although there are a couple of gotchas, doing this from ASP.NET is fairly straight forward. The process involves creating a WebBrowser control to load and render the website image, and write that image to a bitmap.
The WebBrowser control is an ActiveX control. Normally, you create one of these by placing it on a Windows Form. Here, we'll just create one dynamically without any form. One problem is that this control can only be created in a single-threaded apartment. This is the tricky part of this code. We need to create a new thread, set its apartment state to single-threaded apartment, and then run it. This worker thread will create the control and generate the thumbnail. Listing 1 shows my code for the WebsiteThumbnail class.
public class WebsiteThumbnail
protected string _url;
protected int _width, _height;
protected int _thumbWidth, _thumbHeight;
protected Bitmap _bmp;
Listing 1. WebsiteThumbnail Class
Initially, this class required you to create an instance of it and then call the GetThumbnail() method on that instance. However, I changed it to have a single static GetThumbnail() method to simplify its usage. (I've made all the other members protected.)
To generate a thumbnail image, just call WebsiteThumbnail.GetThumbnail(). The first argument is the URL of the website to generate the thumbnail from. Next are the dimensions of the browser window. This affects how large of an area will be included in the image. And, finally, the last two arguments specify the dimensions of the thumbnail. The method returns a bitmap, which you can save to a file or write to a database.
Although there are a number of services on the web for performing this task, it's nice to be able to perform it right within your application. Hopefully, this code will help you out.
NOTE: I have a shared hosting account where this code fails. I have yet to determine exactly what is happening but the entire application just seems to die at the point the worker thread is created. This code works fine on my test computer. As near as I can tell, it is related to a limitation on the shared hosting account. I will report back here if I can further isolate exactly what the issue is.