Precedence Feature Notes

Precedence Feature Notes


Heritrix 2.0 adds a new mechanism for controlling the order in which URIs are crawled based on positive integer 'precedence' values on URIs and queues of related URIs.

Precedence values are an expression of ranking, and lower numbers mean higher rank and earlier handling. (That is, '1' is the highest precedence.)

Precedence values are assigned by switchable policies inside the Heritrix frontier. There is a UriPrecedencePolicy for assigning URI precedences, and a QueuePrecedencePolicy for assigning queue precedences. These policies can also be overridden for particular queues or URI SURT prefixes, so that URIs/queues of natural groupings can be forced to a specific precedence value.

URI precedence overview

URI precedence values are assigned when a URI is first scheduled into a frontier for crawling. There is currently no provision for a URI's precedence to change after initial assignment.

URI precedence affects the order in which URIs are arranged within a queue of related URIs. (Many such queues, usually on the basis of domain name or some fragment thereof, are maintained by a heritrix frontier implementation.)

Numerically lower precedence values sort earlier in the queue, and thus can be thought of as having higher precedence.

URI precedence is separate from and subordinate to the 4 'scheduling-directive' constants (of org.archive.crawler.datamodel.SchedulingConstants). That is, scheduling directive is considered first, then precedence.

There is no necessary relationship between URI precedence values and queue precedence values, but a queue policy may consider URI precedences to set a queue's precedence, as with the HighestUriQueuePrecedencePolicy.

While hypothetically any number of precedence values up to Integer.MAX_VALUE may be used, only values up to 127 are guaranteed by the current implementation to sort in a queue as expected. Using a large number of different precedence values will tend to make URI-enqueuing more expensive (multiple 'hot' insert points in the sorted BDB-backed queue structure).

Queue precedence overview

Queue precedence is initially assigned when a URI-queue is created inside the frontier to take a URI. The queue's precedence is recalculated after each URI is added or removed to the queue.

Queue precedence determines which queues, among all in existence, are first consulted to actively provide URIs for crawling. Those queues with the numerically lowest precedence values – highest precedence rank – are always consulted first.

If the crawler can keep all worker ToeThreads busy pulling URIs from a set of active queues, other lower-precedence queues will wait indefinitely. Only when a ToeThread is idle, and all previously activated queues are ineligible to provide URIs (because they are already in-process, or waiting a polite 'snooze' period before triggering a revisit to a certain site), will the list of all inactive queues be consulted to find the highest-precedence-rank queue available to be activated.

Within the same precedence level, queues are consulted in a round-robin fashion, deactivating to give other queues a chance in accordance with the same budgeting/session-balance mechanism as in Heritrix 1.x.

The frontier may also have a global 'precedence-floor' value, and queues at or below this rank are not eligible to provide URIs at all. (They collect URIs, but never give them out.) However, since the floor value or an individual queue's value may be changed during the crawl, groups of URIs can move from ineligible to eligible or vice-versa, without having to put in scope blocks that cause URIs to be discarded.

Note that the algorithm used for activating and inactivating queues may have some counter-intuitive properties. For instance, if you assign all .gov sites a precedence of 1 and all .com sites a precedence of 2, then .com seeds can still be crawled before .gov seeds, due to the way that seeds are scheduled in the Frontier. The situation will quickly correct itself however; the .com sites won't be crawled too deeply before the .gov sites overtake them.


UriPrecedencePolicies are a new category of module in Heritrix 2.0 that determine the URI precedence value for all URIs discovered by the crawler. The Frontier has a new setting, uri-precedence-policy, that determines which URIPrecedencePolicy module is used. Heritrix ships with the following UriPrecedencePolicy modules:




Assigns precedence based on operator setting.


Assigns precedence based on Heritrix 1.x cost value.


Assigns precedence to a URI's hops-from-seed count.


Assigns precedence from an external file.

By default, the Frontier is set to use CostUriPrecedencePolicy, so URIs should be considered in the same order as in 1.x.


QueuePrecedencePolicies are another new category of module that determine the queue precedence values. The Frontier has another new setting, queue-precedence-policy, that determines which QueuePrecedencePolicy module is used. The following QueuePrecedencePolicy modules are provided:




Assigns queue precedence based on operator setting.


Assigns queue precedence based on the highest URI precedence in the queue.


Lowers queue precedence as URIs in that queue are successfully crawled.

By default, the Frontier uses BaseQueuePrecedencePolicy. In the absence of operator overrides, all queues will have the same precedence by default.


Assigning expert-chosen sites, URLs to specific constant precedence levels

First, set the global configuration. Alter the global sheet so that the Frontier's queue-precedence-policy is BaseQueuePrecedencePolicy, and set its base-precedence value to 5. Alter the Frontier's uri-precedence-policy to be BaseUriPrecedencePolicy, and set its base-precedence value to 5.

Now create two override sheets, one named HighPrioritySites and one named LowPrioritySites. In the HighPrioritySites sheet, override the queue-precedence-policy:base-precedence to be 1. In the LowPrioritySites sheet, override queue-precedence-policy:base-precedence to be 10. Since the Frontier uses a SurtAuthorityQueueAssignmentPolicy by default, you can now assign sites a precedence of 1 or 10 by entering an association of the SURT form of the site to the HighPrioritySites sheet or the LowPrioritySites sheet. For instance, if you want to crawl .gov sites before crawling anything else, you can associate "gov," with the HighPrioritySites sheet. Similarly, if you wanted to crawl .com sites after crawling everything else, you can associate "com," with the LowPrioritySites sheet.

You can follow a similar procedure for assigning URI precedence values. Create two more override sheets, HighPriorityURI and LowPriorityURI, and override their uri-precedence-policy:base-precedence to be 1 and 10. Now you can associate URLs with those sheets to increase or decrease the URI's precedence.

Declining precedence once collection target thresholds are met

Set the Frontier's queue-precedence-policy to be SuccessCountsQueuePrecedencePolicy, then modify its base-precedence and increment-counts setting to suit your needs. For example, with a base-precedence value of 2, and 'increment-counts' of "100,1000", each queue will have a precedence of 2 until 100 URIs are successfully fetched, then a precedence of 3 for the next 1000 URIs successfully fetched, then continue to drop one precedence rank for each 1000 URIs successfully fetched.

Content-driven focused crawling – assigning precedence based on content

Custom UriPrecedencePolicy implementations can be written to assign precedence based on the fetched content of a URI. Although Heritrix does not ship with such a module, there is an example module and unit test in the trunk code. The example module increases a URI's precedence based on the presence of a keyword in the fetched content. To see the code and run the test, first obtain the Heritrix code via SVN (from, then follow the instructions at Setting up the new Heritrix in Eclipse. You can then view the org.archive.crawler.selftest.KeyWordUriPrecedencePolicy code in the engine/src/test/java directory.

You can use command-line utility to import a plain text file containing URIs and precedence values into the crawl history database used by a crawl. The PrecedenceLoader utility takes two arguments, the source file and the destination directory containing the BDB environment. The source file should contain URIs, followed by a space, followed by a precedence value, eg: 5 2 1

See Offline PageRank Analysis Notes for information on how to generate pank rank information in the above format from a previously completed crawl.