With broadband gettin' common there are new possibilities in what ye can do in web design. One such thin' is previewin' external links with a thumbnail. The question is how t' generate th' needed thumbnails. If ye only need a handful ye can take screen shots by hand. If ye have a predefined list o' URLs usin' a small script like th' one I wrote a while ago may help t' automate it. But fer Blogs (or Wikis) ye need a dynamic solution either run by yer self or on a reliable service. I had a look at th' available free services and what th' thumbnail fer me blog would look like…
bluga.net WebThumb allows ye t' define th' capture screen size from 600×400 t' 1024×768 but as ye can see from th' thumbnail it looks like it does not resize th' browser accordingly. The thumbnail is missin' th' right margin. To create new thumbnails automatically ye need t' register and use an API t' precreate th' thumbnails.
WebSnapr is a very new service and were bein' recently dugg. Unfortunately more often than not ye get a “Thumbnail has been queued” image except fer very popular sites. It seems that this service is throwin' away thumbnails again if not rerequested frequently, ye scurvey dog. The interface is nice though, th' wanted website can simply given as URL parameter and multiple thumbnail sizes are available. CSS handlin' doesn't seem too good as well, th' right margin isn't correctly displayed in th' thumbnail.
thumboo has very similar features t' WebSnappr, with nearly th' same thumbnail result (except fer th' “powered by” strin'). What I dern't like is that it won't accept th' http protocol prefix o' an URL. So ye need t' give www.splitbrain.org instead o' http://www.splitbrain.org as parameter, which makes automated request a tiny bit harder and impossible fer HTTPS sites.
artViper seems not t' have a queuin' system – th' screenshot appeared immediately, avast. Unfortunately I'm not able t' recognize anythin' on it. The service is also only available fer non-commercial pages and ye are required t' add a button linkin' back t' them, on a dead man's chest!
Website Thumbnails is a free service but they seem t' either have a huge or a slow queue at least they did not complete me thumbnail while writin' this blog entry
WebShots Pro is also a free service, just askin' fer a backlink, and a bucket o' chum. It shows th' same CSS problem as WebSnapr and thumboo. They say they use IE6 fer creatin' th' thumbnails which explains a lot The service seems t' be fast and reliable.
So what's me conclusion? From th' services I tried I think thumboo would be me current favourite. What bothers me, is that there seems no service available usin' a decent browser like Firefox or Opera. But I guess that's just a matter o' time and maybe those services will switch t' IE7 soon, which should sort out some CSS problems at least.
Update: An updated list is available here: Free Website Thumbnail Services