A File Format For Static Websites

What Is A Static Page?

A static page is a web server’s response to a web browser’s request.

GET /hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html HTTP/1.1
Host: info.cern.ch
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Tue, 04 Apr 2017 22:25:34 GMT
Server: Apache
Last-Modified: Thu, 03 Dec 1992 08:37:20 GMT
ETag: "40521e06-8a9-291e721905000"
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Content-Length: 2217
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html
<HEADER>
<TITLE>The World Wide Web project</TITLE>
... (obsolete HTML continues...)
  1. path: where the file is stored on the server.
  2. headers: instructions the web browser needs to decode the content.
  3. body: the data.
<HEADER>
<TITLE>The World Wide Web project</TITLE>
... (more really-old HTML stuff)
  1. Produce static pages
  2. Write the static pages to files
  3. Upload the files to a website

The Price Of Files

Using files means you lose your Content-Type. Something needs to calculateContent-Type: text/html before serving the HTML to your web browser. Content-Type isn’t always easy to guess; for instance, Content-Type: text/csv; charset=utf-8 is tricky. So who guesses the Content-Type? Is it your static site generator (while it uploads)? Is it your hosting service (as it receives files)? Is it custom code you write? How do you debug it?

The Solution: In-Memory Website

A website is a bunch of HTTP responses. Each response has a path, some headers and a body.

  • All static website generators can output static websites. At HuffPostData I coded a couple of site generators: hpd-asset-pipeline and hpd-page-generator.
  • You can store a static website in a file and load it later.
  • You can upload a static website to a hosting service like S3.
  • You can modify a static website — for instance, add ETags or gzip-compress.
  • You can develop a static website using a development server that re-runs your framework every time a file changes. (My NodeJS development server even makes the browser refresh, with LiveReload.) The development server can mimic S3 almost exactly.
  • You can stream a static website, if it’s too large to fit in memory. And if you must, you can always stream it into filesystem files.
  • You can mix and match programming languages: pipe a StaticWebsite from your Ruby site generator to your Node S3 uploader.

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Adam Hooper

Adam Hooper

Journalist, ex software engineer