Building a crawler in Rust: Crawling a JSON API

Building a crawler in Rust:

Crawling a JSON API is, on the other hand, pretty straightforward, as the data is already (in theory) structured. The only difficulty is to find the next pages to crawl.

This post is an excerpts of my book Black Hat Rust

Here, we are going to scrape all the users of a GitHub organization. Why it's useful? Because if you gain access to one of these accounts (by finding a leaked token or some other means), or gain access to some of the repositories of the organization.


#[derive(Debug, Clone, Serialize, Deserialize)]
pub struct GitHubItem {
    login: String,
    id: u64,
    node_id: String,
    html_url: String,
    avatar_url: String,

As our crawler won't make tons of requests, we don't need to use a token to authenticate to Github's API, but we need to set up some headers. Otherwise, the server would block our requests.

Finally, we also need a regexp, as a quick and dirty way to find next page to crawl:

pub struct GitHubSpider {
    http_client: Client,
    page_regex: Regex,
    expected_number_of_results: usize,

impl GitHubSpider {
    pub fn new() -> Self {
        let http_timeout = Duration::from_secs(6);
        let mut headers = header::HeaderMap::new();

        let http_client = Client::builder()
                "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; Win64; x64; rv:47.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/47.0",
            .expect("spiders/github: Building HTTP client");

        // will match https://...?page=XXX
        let page_regex =
            Regex::new(".*page=([0-9]*).*").expect("spiders/github: Compiling page regex");

        GitHubSpider {
            expected_number_of_results: 100,

Extracting the item is just a matter of parsing the JSON, which is easy thanks to reqwest, which provides the json method.

Here, the trick is to find the next URL to visit. For that, we use the regex compiled above and capture the current page number. For example, in ...&page=2 we capture 2.

Then we parse this String into a number, increment this number, and replace the original URL with the new number. Thus the new URL would be ...&page=3.

If the API doesn't return the expected number of results (which is configured with the per_page query parameter), then it means that we are at the last page of the results, so there is no more page to crawl.


async fn scrape(&self, url: String) -> Result<(Vec<GitHubItem>, Vec<String>), Error> {
    let items: Vec<GitHubItem> = self.http_client.get(&url).send().await?.json().await?;

    let next_pages_links = if items.len() == self.expected_number_of_results {
        let captures = self.page_regex.captures(&url).unwrap();
        let old_page_number = captures.get(1).unwrap().as_str().to_string();
        let mut new_page_number = old_page_number
            .map_err(|_| Error::Internal("spider/github: parsing page number".to_string()))?;
        new_page_number += 1;

        let next_url = url.replace(
            format!("&page={}", old_page_number).as_str(),
            format!("&page={}", new_page_number).as_str(),
    } else {

    Ok((items, next_pages_links))

To run this spider, go to the git repository accompanying this book, in ch_05/crawler/, and run:

$ cargo run -- run --spider github
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Tags: hacking, programming, rust, tutorial

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