IPIP-0002: _redirects File Support on Web Gateways

Justin Johnson GitHub
Marcin Rataj GitHub
Henrique Dias GitHub
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GitHub ipfs/specs (pull requests, new issue, open issues)

Provide support for URL redirects and rewrites for web sites hosted on Subdomain or DNSLink Gateways, thus enabling support for single-page applications (SPAs), and avoiding link rot when moving to IPFS-backed hosting.

1. Motivation

Web sites often need to redirect from one URL to another, for example, to change the appearance of a URL, to change where content is located without breaking existing links (see Cool URIs don't change, link rot), to redirect invalid URLs to a pretty 404 page, or to enable URL rewriting. URL rewriting in particular is a critical feature for hosting SPAs, allowing routing logic to be handled by front end code. SPA support is the primary impetus for this RFC.

Currently the only way to handle URL redirects or rewrites is with additional software such as NGINX sitting in front of the Gateway. This software introduces operational complexity and decreases the uniformity of experience when navigating to content hosted on a Gateway, thus decreasing the value proposition of hosting web sites in IPFS.

This IPIP proposes the introduction of redirect support for content hosted on Subdomain or DNSLink Gateways, configured via a _redirects file residing underneath the root CID of the web site.

2. Detailed design

Allow developers to configure redirect support by adding redirect rules to a file named _redirects stored underneath the root CID of their web site. The format for this file is similar to those of Netlify and Cloudflare Pages but only supporting a subset of their functionality.

The format for the file is from to [status].

Rules in the file are evaluated top to bottom.

For performance reasons this proposal does not include forced redirect support (i.e. redirect rules that are evaluated even if the from path exists). In other word, redirect logic will be evaluated if and only if the requested path does not exist. If the requested path exists, we won't even check for the existence of the _redirects file.

If a _redirects file exists but is unable to be processed, perhaps not even parsing correctly, errors will be returned to the user viewing the site via the Gateway.

The detailed specification is added in [web-redirects-file].

2.1 Test fixtures


See spec for testing details.

3. Design rationale

Popular services today such as Netlify and Cloudflare Pages allow developers to configure redirect support using a _redirects file hosted at the top level of the web site. While we do not intend to provide all of the same functionality, it seems desirable to use a similar approach to provide a meaningful subset of the functionality offered by these services.

3.1 User benefit

Provides general URL redirect and rewrite support, which enables three important features:

  1. Developers will be able to host single-page applications in IPFS.
  2. Same configuration file used for setting up pretty 404 pages.
  3. The cost of switching hosting of an existing website to IPFS is lowered by making it possible to keep all legacy URLs working.

3.2 Compatibility

If by some chance developers are already hosting sites that contain a _redirects file that does something else, they may need to update the contents of the file to match the new functionality. Errors returned to the user due to parsing errors will guide them regarding the required updates.

3.3 Alternatives

A. References

Web _redirects File Specification. Justin Johnson; Marcin Rataj. 2023-11-09. URL: https://specs.ipfs.tech/http-gateways/web-redirects-file/