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Ask HN: What's the quickest way to get something online?
45 points by panphora 63 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 54 comments
Hey HN,

I have this frustration with the modern web. Everything's locked into a platform or requires a build step or CI.

It got me thinking the other day: what's the easiest way to sync a TXT file onto the web?

I thought about FTP, scp, Dropbox, GitHub — but all of them require multiple manual steps and feel complex.

It got my wondering: why isn't it easier today to put something on the internet than it was 10 years ago?

If you want dead-simple and dirt-cheap, NearlyFreeSpeech.net is still there. Put 25 cents in there, upload a file, done. https://www.nearlyfreespeech.net/

Pastebin is another option for simple text.

For slightly more complex sites, check out Vercel or Cloudflare Pages. Both will host your site for free with reasonable quotas.

As for: > why isn't it easier today to put something on the internet than it was 10 years ago?

It IS. Just put it on farcebook or tweeter or medium or blogwhatever. Even easier than geocities.

People don't want to spend eons discovering and reading your poorly formatted text file or janky HTML that doesn't work with phones and is vulnerable to drive-by ad injections and such. If you just have a simple message, those networks do a more effective job (for better or worse) of disseminating it. Readers flock to those networks because it makes content consumption easier.

It's like asking why you have to jump through major publishing houses to get your book on the front of the store display shelves, when anyone used to be able to write and bind a book. You still can, but the world at large doesn't want to spend effort sorting through your stuff and every other amateur's. It's not the ease of publication that matters to them, but the curation. The signal to noise ratio is too low otherwise (and is still very low even with curation).

From the hosting side, free web hosts became a victim of their own success, economonically infeasible, especially as bots and spiders took over the net. Most of the web is junk these days and there's not really much money in making it easier to publish more junk.

From the dev side, the CI and build tools are only necessary if you want to heavily use Javascript for interactivity or clientside loading. Plain ol' HTML and CSS work as they always have, with no building required. Just host it somewhere.

This is why I use shell, because it's faster, easier (once your learn it), and you're not locked in.

     $ echo '<a href="https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29253277">question</a>' > question.html
     $ scp question.html oilshell.org:oilshell.org/share
RESULT: http://www.oilshell.org/share/question.html


scp has worked the same way for ~20 years. It completes in ~10 ms, and there's no password prompt because I have ssh-agent set up.

I have used Dreamhost since 2009 and it works great: https://www.dreamhost.com/

i.e. It has survived every single HN front page spike with no problems. If you make reasonable web pages then they're very easy to serve.

I have multiple domains under the same hosting account for less than $10/month. I prefer to pay what the service costs to run rather than rely on free hosting subsidized in other ways.

Shared hosting with shell access is an underrated commodity. It seems that many people are not aware that it exists, compared to VPS or the cloud (both of which require you to become a sys admin, not just a shell user).

I think the main barrier is that many features are hidden behind the shell, and admittedly it took me quite awhile to learn. I started using the web in 1994 or so, and didn't really learn how Unix works until over 10 years later, after my second job!

But I suggest taking the time to learn our shared language of computing and networking. It will still be around in 10 years, as opposed to all the free services of startups! They are convenient, but non-composable, which means you get hamstrung when you want to build bigger things.

The simplest way I can think of is Netlify. You can drag and drop a folder to deploy it. You'll get a sort of random looking domain and HTTPS. From there you can configure your own domain and deploy from GitHub etc. if you choose, but it's not required.

I have never gotten in to the nitty-gritty of what Netlify can do but the free tier is my go-to tool for posting fun little side projects.

Buy a domain, create a new site linked to a Github repo, and write HTML and push!

(Not a paid shill, just a happy user)

But to the question asker's original point

> what's the easiest way to sync a TXT file onto the web?

For my personal website I use a custom static site generator and rsync

> rsync -a output_folder/ website_host:/var/www/website_folder --delete;

where "website_host" is an alias in my SSH config file.

> [...] all of them require multiple manual steps and feel complex

I create a bash script called "publish.sh" in every project so I don't have to remember these things.

And it accepts forms submissions too. I wanted to get a bespoke static landing page up for https://www.middleclasspaas.com/ that accepted form submissions and it took minutes on netlify, I was super impressed.

What were the steps 10 years ago that weren’t complex? I probably would have reached for Heroku back then. Or possibly my VPS on Dreamhost where I could FTP something into a folder served by Apache.

Both of these are still an option. Today, I reach for Netlify which I think is easier—-just drag and drop a folder if git is too much.

> What were the steps 10 years ago that weren’t complex?

I would really like to hear the answer to that! And why the 10-years-ago thing can't be done today.

I didn't say it was harder today, I asked: "why isn't it easier today?"

I would think with improvements in tech, things would actually become simpler.

What was hard then that you're worried about needing to be "easier" today?

A 2€/month VPS, Apache, Let's Encrypt certificate, done. Use rsync or sshfs, or edit the file right on the VPS.

It is not much easier and cheaper nowadays than 10 years ago because is has always been quite easy - with the main change that a cert for https is free nowadays.

If you mean a website, outside of managed platforms a PHP file synced with ftp on any provider will have a quick feedback look. Not that I recommend it, but to start, it is one of the quickest.If ftp or scp is too complex I recommend to use a managed website builder (wix, hosted wordpress)

If you literally mean a txt made public: gdrive, Dropbox, notion, s3,…

Maybe ngrok fits the bill, to literally share a folder on the internet.

I am not sure why you are in such a rush. I would argue today it is easier than ever to „put something“ on the internet. I do not think it can be simpler that the options above. Either learn (a minimum amount) or be in somebody‘s platform. IMHO none is too bad, just different tradeoffs. Good luck!

I just read this post on HN about Netlify Drop:



This is as good as it gets. Drag and drop your folder and its hosted instantly. I was looking for something like this for someone to test a website out because I did not feel like creating a GitHub repository to push to Netlify. Was pleasantly surprised to find this one.

>sync a txt

how much do you care about the provenance of the file? I would just slap it into pastebin and call it a day. If that isn't what you mean, any commodity cpanel reseller will probably do. If you want even more control, Caddy is drop dead simple.

I feel compelled to tell you about my project https://wsend.net/

I built a way to show a static site on there too: https://github.com/abemassry/wsend-static

There are a lot of tools you can build on top of it as well because the core is simple: send a file, get a link.

From your landing page, I don't understand what happens when you run `wsend file.txt`. Where does the file go?

It goes to a central server, similar to Dropbox, except when I built the service 8 years ago it was a little more open than Dropbox and it was accessible through the command line.

I built something that was useful for me, 32,000 other people have found it useful as well, let me know if you have other questions as well. Thanks for checking it out!


Looks very smooth!

Two options come to mind at the moment:

1. GitHub pages or similar 2. Fastmail file hosting (or similar)

The first is pretty well known so I won’t waste your time explaining that. The second is a feature of some accounts for the Fastmail service which I personally use and recommend (no affiliation, just a happy customer). They give you a limited amount of space depending on your plan and you can upload files there. I haven’t done much with it this way, but in theory you could host a small scale static website that way fairly easy. Other providers certainly offer similar alternatives as well, this is just a “works for me” thing.

Good luck finding something you like!

Not sure when you thought it was easier? 20 years ago you would definitely be using FTP. Get a cheap web host, FTP onto it. Job done. If you manage the domain separately that's pretty much the same job as always too.

A dream: if Windows/Mac had a right-click “Publish to web” command, which for the first use would lead you through a setup that’s no more complicated than connecting to wifi.

I know, devil is in the details.

That's the tradeoff between using a platform and doing things manually. The underlying architecture that things rely on generally can't be changed to be drastically simpler to use due to network effects. You can't make breaking changes to TCP/IP for example or the modern world would implode (or realistically, that new branch would be ignored). So you rely on platforms to hide this complexity.

Digital Ocean probably has a one-click droplet for a static server you could use.

Agreed. The question is if you need the complexity these platforms have. Do you need a distributed platform with regional load balancing and all sorts of other stuff to share a small text file with a handful of people? Absolutely not.

It ultimately depends on the usecase. Small web hosts still exist, you can also still stand up a personal fileserver at home in many cases and host a file to a few people. Heck you can even email some files or host it as a torrent.

If you need millions of people to see it and want it to be nearly guaranteed to survive with 99.99999... SLAs then yes, you probably do need all that platform complexity.

Some of these platforms make it relatively easy. S3 isn't too bad to get up to speed with for a quick sort of file hosting strategy.

A text file is different than somethingin the title, but excluding every platform is what's got your hands tied behind your back as far as seeing progress. Normal people don't want a text file online, they want their friends to know about their pictures and videos, and have them comment on them. It's trivial to get something online these days. I open the user friendly app on my smartphone and press the + button, and my photo/video content is online, with no manual replicating it across servers or even knowing what storage tiers even are. Medium.com if you want to upload long form text vs Facebook or Instagram, but without a more rigorously defined notion (notion.so is another one for text) of what your idea of a platform is, there isn't one - Digital Ocean is certainly a platform, but uploading a text file to a VPS there isn't the same as a uploading to pastebin.com or Instagram.

If you want to avoid the build step, Kit55 is great https://stack55.com . We deploy our sites using firebase, so our workflow is basically writing HTML and then run firebase deploy. Disclosure - I'm part of Kit55 team.

Do you have to use WWW? How about a torrent?

> why isn't it easier today to put something on the internet than it was 10 years ago?

Interesting question. If it's easy, then probably you're putting your content onto someone else's domain. This leads to two issues (which are related).

1. The domain that's hosting your content can be legally responsible for it, so you have copyright and other legal issues which leads to them putting barriers in your way.

2. The host also might want to make money off your content, so they're going to want to control the ecosystem via things like logins, moderation, etc.

pCloud public folder, same way as the old dropbox public folder.

Copy paste the file in a directory, the whole directory is visible (index) as a page on the web. At this point you can just grab the link to the file and share it


I've used it before. it's great and fast and simple.

Depends where you draw the line on "platform". There's still the old-school cPanel shared hosting types out there where you can drag and drop through a file manager. But then you usually have to pay a gatekeeper to get one, and that could be considered a platform?

Highly not recommended, but get a static IP address and open a port on your home network to the internet that points to a folder you drag to would be the most open?


Create a new site. Create a text file. Paste in your content. Hosted!

I’d say google drive

This is one of the easiest host a simple website


>Everything's locked into a platform

The quick ways are generally locked into a platform. But if it's a text file, does that matter? If you don't want the lock in, there's some initial setup, but after that it can be drag/drop.

There's also some middle ground, like serving from a local NAS box. Still locked-in, but more under your control.

How about http://htlm.org/the-quickest-way-to-get-something-online ?

It allows anyone to generate a URL and just copy/paste or edit HTML content using the HTML contenteditable=true attribute.

> It got my wondering: why isn't it easier today to put something on the internet than it was 10 years ago?

What did the "easy" way look like 10 years ago? I don't recall any method that wouldn't require at least some manual steps.

The easy way 10 years ago was FTP or rsync. It seems like that's still the easy way.

I'm wondering why nothing simpler/more automatic has popped up.

Wait, so is your problem sending a file to someone in particular, or is your problem getting text on the internet?

What could possibly be easier? You need to at least upload your website.

What was the super easy method that didn't require FTP, SCP or a manual upload from ten years ago?

From what I remember, everything always had a few steps... Perhaps you're suffering from "rosy retrospection"?!

Publishing to the web should be a generic operation for most cases, just like linking a program. Just select “publish to the web” in VS Code, pick a provider if you haven’t already, and go.

just connect your computer to the internet without firewall and no patches applied. will be online almost immediately ;-)

Will also be offline in about the same timeframe, too (-:

Knocking it offline means it can't be part of the attackers botnet, so once it's a part of someone's botnet, they have a vested interest in keeping it online, strangely enough.

That's a different problem

A single text file? github or similar

Tell hackers something is unhackable - they do all the work for you too ;-)

Typing text into this box on HN seems pretty easy.

Easiest and literally takes seconds -- surge.sh

For the stated use case, I use IPFS. Just pin the .txt file and share the link with the Cloudflare-IPFS.com gateway.

Use vercel

Serve from S3 bucket.


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