Local web servers are great for development and debugging, but they have limitations. There are times where you need a public-facing site but don’t want the hassle or expense of setting up a hosting provider to serve up that content.
Lately I’ve been playing with OAuth 2.0. Put simply, OAuth 2.0 (also referred just as oauth2) is an authorization protocol that allows API applications to securely act on a user’s behalf. If you’ve ever run across a web site asking you to share something on Twitter or Facebook by pressing a link or button, then most likely that action used oauth2 to get your permission to post that message on your behalf by the application.
APIs that offer oauth2 access to consumers to do this often require the consuming application to register the URI of the website using oauth2 in order to obtain an API key. An API key is then generated for the web application that is specific to the URI of the website. Attempting to register your URI as http://localhost doesn’t work. So you can be left in a state where you need a real URI for testing and want the fastest path to setting this website up.
Enter a service like Site44.com. Site44.com turns your Dropbox files into websites. It’s dead simple to use and best of all, it’s free. Being free, there are a few catches but nothing I found prohibitive. First, since this is all essentially running off of a Dropbox folder, only static content is allowed. There is no server processing available to run code like ASP.NET or PHP. Second, you get 100MB/month of total data transfer. If you need more, you can pay $4.95/month for 40GB of transfer. Finally, Site44.com states it’s currently in beta and doesn’t suggest running a production application using this service. I can’t see why anyone would try to run a production application off of their Dropbox account, but fair enough.
To get started Site44.com prompts you to sign in to Dropbox from its site in order to grant Site44.com permission to access Dropbox data. Don’t be worried though, Site44.com can only access a single folder in your Dropbox account that it creates for the purpose of storing your website content.
Next, Site44.com will prompt you enter a website domain. You can either create a subdomain off of Site44.com (ie: mysite.Site44.com) or you can use your own domain.
After you enter a domain name, Site44.com will create a new folder structure in Dropbox for ‘Apps/site44/[your domain name]’. When the folder is created, there will be an index.html file put in the folder as a placeholder page. Now all you have to do is copy your web assets to the new Dropbox folder and Site44 will automatically sync and host them.
I’ve found their hosting service to be reliable and fast. It really is that simple. You can have a public facing website up in running in minutes with the convenience of Dropbox folder syncing, all for free.