installing on a smart http git server


"smart http" refers to the feature that came with git 1.6.6, late 2009 or so. The base documentation for this is man git-http-backend. Do NOT read Documentation/howto/setup-git-server-over-http.txt and think that is the same or even relevant -- that is from 2006 and is quite different (and arguably obsolete).

WARNINGS and important notes

  • Please read authentication versus authorisation first, and make sure you understand what is gitolite's responsibility and what isn't.

  • I have tested this only on stock Fedora (whatever is the current version); YDMV.


  • Apache 2.x and git installed.
  • Httpd runs under the "apache" userid; adjust instructions below if not.
  • Similarly for "/var/www" and other file names/locations.


In place of detailed instructions, there is a script called t/smart-http.root-setup. Do NOT run this script as is -- it is actually meant for my testing setup and deletes stuff. However, it does provide an excellent (and working!) narration of what you need to do to install gitolite in smart http mode.

Make a copy of the script, go through it carefully, (possibly removing lines that delete files etc.), change values per your system, and only then run it.


The GIT_PROJECT_ROOT variable (see "man git-http-backend") is no longer optional. Make sure you set it to some place outside apache's DOCUMENT_ROOT.

allowing unauthenticated access

If you want users to see repos without performing any HTTP authentication, you should first decide what repos they should have unauthenticated access to:

repo foo bar baz        # or maybe '@all'?
    R   =   nobody

Then in the rc file (~/.gitolite.rc), in the section marked "rc variables used by various features", add this (including the trailing comma):

HTTP_ANON_USER      =>  'nobody',

Updated 2019-10-19

The above does not seem to work any more. The way it was supposed to work was that the user could supply a userid, or not. If he did not, then gitolite would notice (the environment variable REMOTE_USER would be empty) and would then use whatever was specified above (in this case, nobody).

This does not seem to happen any more. Apache seems to insist on a userid, period. Unfortunately I am very far from being an expert in apache configuration, so, if someone can make this work without requiring any userid at all, please let me know.

Making repositories available to both ssh and http mode clients

This section has been contributed by Thomas Hager (duke at sigsegv dot at), and is available here.



Http mode does not seem capable of setting an exit code when things fail, unlike ssh mode. Therefore, using an http-hosted gitolite in scripts may need more care and thought.

client side

Git URLs look like https://user:password@server/git/reponame.git.

The custom commands, like "info", "expand" should be handled as follows. The command name will come just after the /git/, followed by a ?, followed by the arguments, with + representing a space. Here are some examples:

# ssh git@server info
curl https://user:password@server/git/info
# ssh git@server info repopatt
curl https://user:password@server/git/info?repopatt
# ssh git@server info repopatt user1 user2
curl https://user:password@server/git/info?repopatt+user1+user2

With a few nice shell aliases, you won't even notice the horrible convolutions here ;-) See t/smart-http for a couple of useful ones.

server side

The gitolite command (for example, gitolite compile, gitolite query-rc, and so on) can be run on the server, but it's not straightforward. Assuming you installed exactly as given in this page, you should

  • get a shell by using, say, su -s /bin/bash - apache
  • run export HOME=$HOME/gitolite-home
  • run export PATH=$PATH:$HOME/bin

and then you can run gitolite <subcommand>