Sometimes I need to start a local HTTP server for a quick one-off task, often just to serve static content. It is not important which one it is, so long as I can do it quickly.

Option #1: use python

% python3 -m http.server
Serving HTTP on :: port 8000 (http://[::]:8000/) ...

This is often the most universal and convenient option, as python is widely available out-of-the-box.

Option #2: use darkhttpd

darkhttpd is available almost everywhere.

% darkhttpd .
darkhttpd/1.14, copyright (c) 2003-2022 Emil Mikulic.
listening on:

Their own README states:

When you need a web server in a hurry.

This is the most convenient option when you are in control of a package manager, as it is one installation command away from your system. In particular, it’s available in both homebrew and nixpkgs.

Option #3: use nodejs

% npx http-server -p 8000
Starting up http-server, serving ./

http-server version: 14.1.1

http-server settings:
CORS: disabled
Cache: 3600 seconds
Connection Timeout: 120 seconds
Directory Listings: visible
AutoIndex: visible
Serve GZIP Files: false
Serve Brotli Files: false
Default File Extension: none

Available on:
Hit CTRL-C to stop the server

If you’re already within the node ecosystem, this is also just one installation away. I would typically not recommend this setup though if you don’t already have npm installed on your system.

Option #4: use busybox

This option seemed very attractive for use on Linux systems:

% busybox httpd -f -p 8080

However in an up-to-date Alpine Linux system (3.20) it does not work:

% busybox httpd -f -p 8080
httpd: applet not found

Therefore I don’t consider it universal enough.