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dynamic-etag: NGINX module for adding ETag to dynamic content

Installation

CentOS/RHEL 6, 7, 8 or Amazon Linux 2

yum -y install https://extras.getpagespeed.com/release-latest.rpm
yum -y install nginx-module-dynamic-etag

Enable the module by adding the following at the top of /etc/nginx/nginx.conf:

load_module modules/ngx_http_dynamic_etag_module.so;

This document describes nginx-module-dynamic-etag v0.2.1 released on Aug 11 2019.


This NGINX module empowers your dynamic content with automatic ETag header. It allows client browsers to issue conditional GET requests to dynamic pages. And thus saves bandwidth and ensures better performance!

Caveats first!

This module is a real hack: it calls a header filter from a body filter, etc.

The original author abandoned it, having to say:

It never really worked.

I largely rewrote it to deal with existing obvious faults, but the key part with buffers, which, myself being old, I probably will never understand, is untouched.

To be reliable, the module has to read entire response and take a hash of it. Reading entire response is against NGINX lightweight design. I am not sure whether the buffer part waits for the entire response.

Having said that, the tests which I added showcase that this whole stuff works!

Note that the HEAD requests will not have any ETag returned, because we have no data to play with, since NGINX rightfully discards body for this request method.

Consider this as a feature or a bug :-) If we remove this, then all HEAD requests end up having same ETag (hash on emptiness), which is definitely worse.

Thus, be sure you check headers like this:

curl -IL -X GET https://www.example.com/

And not like this:

 curl -IL https://www.example.com/

Another worthy thing to mention is that it makes little to no sense applying dynamic ETag on a page that changes on each reload. E.g. I found I wasn't using the dynamic ETag with benefits, because of <?= antispambot(get_option('admin_email')) ?>, in my Wordpress theme's header.php, since in this function:

the selection is random and changes each time the function is called

To quickly check if your page is changing on reload, use:

diff <(curl http://www.example.com") <(curl http://www.example.com")

Now that we're done with the "now you know" yada-yada, you can proceed with trying out this stuff :)

Synopsis

http {
    server {
        location ~ \.php$ {
            dynamic_etag on;
            fastcgi_pass ...;
        }
    }
}

Configuration directives

dynamic_etag

  • syntax: dynamic_etag on|off|$var
  • default: off
  • context: http, server, location, if

Enables or disables applying ETag automatically.

dynamic_etag_types

  • syntax: dynamic_etag_types <mime_type> [..]
  • default: text/html
  • context: http, server, location

Enables applying ETag automatically for the specified MIME types in addition to text/html. The special value * matches any MIME type. Responses with the text/html MIME type are always included.

Tips

You can use map directive for conditionally enabling dynamic ETag based on URLs, e.g.:

map $request_uri $dyn_etag {
    default "off";
    /foo "on";
    /bar "on";
}
server { 
   ...
   location / {
       dynamic_etag $dyn_etag;
       fastcgi_pass ...
   }
}

Original author's README

Attempt at handling ETag / If-None-Match on proxied content.

I plan on using this to front a Varnish server using a lot of ESI.

It does kind of work, but... be aware, this is my first attempt at developing a nginx plugin, and dealing with headers after having read the body was not exactly in the how-to.

Any comment and/or improvement and/or fork is welcome.

Thanks to http://github.com/kkung/nginx-static-etags/ for... inspiration.

GitHub

You may find additional configuration tips and documentation for this module in the GitHub repository for nginx-module-dynamic-etag.

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