Qbox to join forces with Instaclustr. Read about it on our blog post here.

When building vertical search engines, for example for collecting recipes, prices or addresses, the first step is to crawl the web for information.

In this tutorial you will learn how to configure the Nutch web crawler to feed data into Elasticsearch.

Alternative web crawlers or why pick Nutch?

The most prominent web scrapers to consider are: ScrapyStorm Crawler, River Web and Nutch.

Scrapy is an easily configurable python scraper targeted at medium sized scraping jobs. Recently with the “distributed-frontera” framework scaling Scrapy became possible.

Storm-crawler, based on the Apache Storm project, is a collection of resources to build your own highly scalable scraper infrastructure.

River Web, originally an Elasticsearch plugin it is now a simple standalone webscraper designed with Elasticsearch in mind.

Nutch stands at the origin of the Hadoop Stack and today is often called “the gold standard of web scraping”, its large adoption is the main reason we chose Nutch for this Tutorial.

The first task is to decide between two main versions of the crawler:

Option 1: The MapReduce framework, Hadoop was originally created as part of the Nutch project and is still integrated in the 1.x versions.

Option 2: the 2.x stream introduces an abstraction layer to work with any modern data store, e.g. HBase, MongoDB, CouchDB. There is even a gora-elasticsearch module planed.

For this tutorial we chose the actual 2.x stream, but 1.x would work similarly, in fact it is easier to configure.


Web crawling components and workflow

Before we dive in to the configuration files, here’s a small introduction to the workflow of scraping with Nutch.

Main components of Nutch and its relation to Elasticsearch.

Figure: Main components of Nutch and its relation to Elasticsearch.

  1. First, we tell Nutch from where to start. The injector takes all the URLs of a seed file and adds them to Crawlbase. The Crawlbase maintains information on all known URLs, when they were fetched and what the resulting status was.
  2. Based on the data of Crawldb, the Generator creates a list of URLs to fetch. They are placed into a newly created segment directory.
  3. The Fetcher gets the content of the URLs on the Crawlist and saves them in the Segment directory.
  4. The Parser hands over the content of each website to configured Processors. For example the HTML Processor could eliminate HTML markup.
  5. Elasticsearch finally takes over the content and indexes it.

How to configure Nutch for Elasticsearch


Tools Notes
Oracle Java JDK7 is needed to compile Nutch, currently only the 1.x branch releases binaries
Nutch 2.3
HBase 0.94.27 The 0.98.x stream is not working at the time of writing due to different release cycles of Apache Gora and HBase. Alternatives: it has been shown that MongoDB works.


Elasticsearch 1.7.1

For this post, we will be using hosted Elasticsearch on Qbox.io. You can sign up or launch your cluster here, or click “Get Started” in the header navigation. If you need help setting up, refer to “Provisioning a Qbox Elasticsearch Cluster.

Setting up HBase

Edit /conf/hbase-site.xml and add


Setting up Nutch

Nutch must be compiled with the Ant builder.

Configure the HBase adapter by editing the /conf/gora.properties:

-#gora.datastore.default=org.apache.gora.mock.store.MockDataStore<br />+gora.datastore.default=org.apache.gora.hbase.store.HBaseStore

In conf/nutch-site.xml you need to name your spider and configure both HBase as a store and Elasticsearch as an indexer

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="configuration.xsl"?>
<!-- Put site-specific property overrides in this file. -->
    <value>Qbox Spider</value>
    <description>Default class for storing data</description>
    <name>plugin.includes</name>     <value>protocol-httpclient|urlfilter-regex|parse-(text|tika|js)|index-(basic|anchor)|query-(basic|site|url)|response-(json|xml)|summary-basic|scoring-opic|urlnormalizer-(pass|regex|basic)|indexer-elastic</value>
  <description>Maximum size of the bulk in number of documents.</description>
  <description>Maximum size of the bulk in bytes.</description>

Build Nutch

ant runtime
Expected result is: build success.

Crawling the web

You will find the compiled binaries in $NUTCH_ROOT/runtime/local/

1. Nutch expects some seed URLs from where to start the crawling.

For example on a Linux system:

mkdir seed<br />echo "https://en.wikipedia.org" > seed/urls.txt

You can also limit crawling to a certain hostname etc. by setting a regular expression in runtime/local/config/regex-filter.txt

2. Inject the URLs into the Crawldb

nutch inject seed/urls.txt

3. Generate URLs to fetch

bin/nutch generate -topN 40

4. Fetch the pages

bin/nutch fetch -all

Example output snippet:

fetching https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_content (queue crawl delay=5000ms)
10/10 spinwaiting/active, 77 pages, 0 errors, 0.2 0 pages/s, 261 182 kb/s, 2 URLs in 1 queues
* queue: https://en.wikipedia.org
 maxThreads    = 1
 inProgress    = 0
 crawlDelay    = 5000
 minCrawlDelay = 0
 nextFetchTime = 1448521467348
 now           = 1448521466676
 0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_(cricket)
 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mal_Whitfield

5. Parse the pages

bin/nutch parse -all
Example output snippet:
ParserJob: starting at 2015-11-26 08:09:35
ParserJob: resuming: false
ParserJob: forced reparse: false
ParserJob: parsing all
Parsing https://en.wikipedia.org/w/opensearch_desc.php
Parsing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1863
Parsing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1915
Parsing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975
Parsing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1984
Parsing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Bamako_hotel_at...

6. Updating should be done regularly in order to always have the actual content in the segment base.

bin/nutch updatedb -all
DbUpdaterJob: starting at 2015-11-26 08:10:35
DbUpdaterJob: updatinging all
DbUpdaterJob: finished at 2015-11-26 08:10:51, time elapsed: 00:00:15

7. Finally we index the content with Elasticsearch

bin/nutch index elasticsearch -all
No IndexWriters activated - check your configuration
You can query your data with Elasticsearch
curl -X GET "http://localhost:9200/_search?query=myterm"


Install Kibana, select the “nutch*” index and deselect “Index contains time-based events”

Figure: configure Kibana index pattern
Figure: how to configure Kibana.


After all this work, start to visualize some interesting features of your search.

Figure: Exploring the most frequent terms in the fetched Wikipedia pages. An exercise left to the reader would be to filter stopwords in Elasticsearch

Figure: Exploring the most frequent terms in the fetched Wikipedia pages. An exercise left to the reader would be to filter stopwords in Elasticsearch.


In this tutorial you have learned how to configure Nutch as a data source for Elasticsearch. Nutch is powerful yet not very easy to handle for beginners. Together with Kibana we have a solid pipeline to analyse huge amounts of text from specific topics.


About the author

Roland Kofler works in software development since 16 years. A Lucene user since the early days, he enjoys the modernity of Elasticsearch and the ELK-Stack. He is co-founder and the CTO of Alimentaris Ltd. an European startup in the field of Food Regulations.