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mod_compress: Lighttpd Gzip Compression To Improve Download and Browsing Speed

Gzip is the most popular and effective compression method. Most modern web browser supports and accepts compressed data transfer. By gziping response time can reduced by 60-70% as compare to normal web page. The end result is faster web site experience for both dial up (they’re not dead yet – I’ve dial up account for backup purpose) and broadband user. I’ve already written about speeding up Apache 2.x web access or downloads with mod_deflate.

mod_compress for Lighttpd 1.4.xx

Lighttpd 1.4.xx supports gzip compression using mod_compress. This module can reduces the network load and can improve the overall throughput of the webserver. All major http-clients support compression by announcing it in the Accept-Encoding header as follows:

Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate

If lighttpd sees this header in the request, it can compress the response using one of the methods listed by the client. The web server notifies the web client of this via the Content-Encoding header in the response:

Content-Encoding: gzip

This is used to negotiate the most suitable compression method. Lighttpd support deflate, gzip and bzip2.

Configure mod_compress

Open your lighttpd.conf file:
# vi /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf
Append mod_compress to server.modules directive:
server.modules += ( "mod_compress" )
Setup compress.cache-dir to stored all cached file:
compress.cache-dir = "/tmp/lighttpdcompress/"
Finally, define mimetypes to get compressed. Following will allow to compress javascript, plain text files, css file,xml file etc:

compress.filetype           = ("text/plain","text/css", "text/xml", "text/javascript" )

Save and close the file. Create /tmp/lighttpdcompress/ file:
# mkdir -p /tmp/lighttpdcompress/
# chown lighttpd:lighttpd /tmp/lighttpdcompress/

Restart lighttpd:
# /etc/init.d/lighttpd restart

How do I enable mod_compress per virtual host?

Use conditional $HTTP host directive, for example turn on compression for theos.in:

$HTTP["host"] =~ "theos\.in" {
  compress.cache-dir = "/var/www/cache/theos.in/"

PHP dynamic compression

Open php.in file:
# vi /etc/php.ini
To compress dynamic content with PHP please enable following two directives:
zlib.output_compression = On
zlib.output_handler = On

Save and close the file. Restart lighttpd:
# service lighttpd restart

Cleaning cache directory

You need to run a shell script for cleaning out cache directory.

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • 高达00 October 6, 2008, 12:41 pm

    I use exactly the settings like that, but the mod_compress seems not working with my Ubuntu box, which runs lighttpd 1.4.18 version. Anybody could tell me why?

  • China pictures October 17, 2008, 3:25 am

    What is the diference with the deflate mod ?

  • TheCaptain November 21, 2008, 6:53 pm

    Yes it doesn’t work for me too..
    I’m running CentOS, and have set everything as your instruction but when I check using Online GZIP Tester (http://www.gidnetwork.com/tools/gzip-test.php) it showed that it still uncompressed. Or maybe this tool only works for apache ?

  • wYke November 29, 2008, 9:23 am

    hi, I have turned on the zlib compression and handler but it seems the apache load average shoots up to more than 200. how is it supposed to help?

  • Ryan December 2, 2008, 7:03 am

    THanks for this :)

    Worked perfectly for my server

  • mumuri December 13, 2008, 11:15 pm

    There is little spelling mistake “mod_comress “

  • Ulrich January 10, 2009, 11:07 pm

    You should use “application/x-javascript”. “text/javascript” doesn’t work for me.

  • Craig M. Rosenblum March 26, 2009, 10:24 am

    How do i get this to work under windows? I keep getting errors in the folder specification…Any suggestions?

  • Nico July 7, 2010, 7:48 pm

    Thank you ! Perfect for me !

  • nerd February 2, 2011, 8:28 am

    when i do chown lighttpd:lighttpd /tmp/lighttpdcompress/
    i get chown: lighttpd: Invalid argument

  • JarekMk March 21, 2011, 11:00 am

    @nerd – use www-data – lighty is working on this user.

  • Mr Person December 6, 2012, 3:21 pm

    # /etc/init.d/lighttpd restart
    is a typo

    I think you meant
    # /etc/rc.d/lighttpd restart

    or more portable:
    service lighttpd restart

    • Mr Person December 6, 2012, 3:21 pm

      sorry /usr/local/etc/rc.d/lighttpd restart

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