A broken link checker service

pip install deadoralive==0.1.1


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Dead or Alive

Dead or Alive is a simple dead link checker service: it's a command-line script or cron job that checks your site for broken links and posts the results back to your site using an API (defined below) that your site must implement.


For CKAN sites you can install ckanext-deadoralive to add Dead or Alive support.

In the future we'd like to make this into a web service rather than just a cron job. This will enable ad-hoc link checking in response to user interactions (i.e. the user clicks on a "check this link/these links now" button on the client website, or checking a new resource as soon as a user creates it) as well as the currently implemented automatic hourly checks. See


Python 2.6 or 2.7.


To install run:

pip install deadoralive

If you want to check a CKAN site for broken links you also need to install ckanext-deadoralive on your CKAN site.

To install for development, create and activate a Python virtual environment then do:

git clone
cd deadoralive
python develop


To check a site for broken links run:

deadoralive --url <your_site> --apikey <your_api_key>

Replace <your_site> with the URL of the CKAN or other client site you want to check (e.g.

Replace <your_api_key> with the API key of the site user that you want the link checker to run as.

If the site is a CKAN site the API key should be the CKAN API key of one of the users listed in the ckanext.deadoralive.authorized_users config setting in your CKAN config file (see ckanext-deadoralive's docs for details).

Adding a Cron Job

To setup the link checker to run automatically you can add a cron job for it. On most UNIX systems you can add a cron job by running crontab -e to edit your crontab file. Add a line like the following to the file and save it:

@hourly deadoralive --url '<your_site>' --apikey <your_api_key>

As before replace <your_site> with the URL of the site you want to check, and <your_api_key> with an API key from the site.

You can also use @daily or @weekly instead of @hourly if you want link checking to happen less often.

Running the Link Checker on a Different Machine

Although the ckanext-deadoralive extension has to be installed and activated on the CKAN site that you want to check the links of, the link checker script itself does not need to be run from the same machine. Because it does all communication with the CKAN site via CKAN's API, you can run it from a different server or from your laptop: just install and run deadoralive as described above.

Running Multiple Link Checkers at Once

It's perfectly fine to run multiple instances of the deadoralive link checker script at once. For example:

  • Have a cron job setup on the server to run the link checker hourly, but occassionally run another copy of the link checker manually on your laptop.

  • Have multiple cron jobs on multiple servers running link checkers against the same CKAN site.

CKAN will hand out different resources to each link checker, and won't let two checkers check the same resource at the same time.

Running Multiple Link Checkers on the Same Machine

By default deadoralive uses a socket to prevent two instances of the script from running at the same time on the same machine. This is to prevent link checker processes from piling up when the link checker is being run as a cron job and doesn't finish checking all the links before cron runs it again.

If you want to run multiple instances on the same machine at the same time, just use the --port option to specify a different port for each. For example:

deadoralive --url '<url>' --apikey <apikey> --port 4567
deadoralive --url '<url>' --apikey <apikey> --port 4568
deadoralive --url '<url>' --apikey <apikey> --port 4569

(deadoralive doesn't actually do anything with the port, it just binds a socket to it to prevent any other deadoralive processes with the same port from running.)

Checking Multiple Sites

You can use a single instance of the link checker to check multiple sites: just pass it different --url and --apikey arguments.

For example you might setup three cron jobs to check three different sites, giving each job a different port so that they can run simultaneously:

@hourly deadoralive --url '<first_site>' --apikey <first_api_key> --port 4567
@hourly deadoralive --url '<second_site>' --apikey <second_api_key> --port 4568
@hourly deadoralive --url '<third_site>' --apikey <third_key> --port 4569


The API that a site must implement to be compatible with deadoralive is as follows:

  • All request and response bodies are in JSON-formatted text.

  • deadoralive sends the API key (from its --apikey option) in all HTTP requests as an Authorization header.

    For example deadoralive --url <url> --apikey foo will send requests with header Authorization: foo.

  • GET /deadoralive/get_resources_to_check

    Return a list of IDs of resources to be checked. An ID can be any string that uniquely identifies a resource that has a URL.

    deadoralive will request this endpoint once at the start of each run.

    Example output: ["id_1", "id_2", ...].

  • GET /deadoralive/get_url_for_resource?resource_id=<resource_id>

    Return the URL of the link to be checked for the given resource ID.

    deadoralive will request this endpoint once for each of the resource IDs it was given by the previous request.

    Example output: {"url": ""}

  • POST /deadoralive/upsert

    deadoralive will post to this endpoint to report the result of each link check that it does.

    Example post body:

    {"resource_id": "id_1",
     "alive": false,
     "status": 500,
     "reason": "Internal Server Error",
     "url": ""

See ckanext-deadoralive for a reference implementation.

Running the Tests

First activate your virtualenv then install the dev requirements:

pip install -r dev-requirements.txt

Then to run the tests do:


To run the tests and produce a test coverage report do:

nosetests --with-coverage --cover-inclusive --cover-erase --cover-tests