View and Clone a Git Repo with the Same URL using Nginx

Set up nginx to use the same URL to view a git repository on the web and to clone the repository over HTTPS.

Recently, I've been experimenting with building a web interface for my own self-hosted git repositories. The goal of the project is to provide a web view for each repository, as well as allow cloning of each repository over HTTPS. The source code for the project can be found here.

However, there was one small feature that stumped me for quite a while. That feature was figuring out how to allow cloning and the web view to use the same URL. It's a little thing, but I found myself coming back to it again and again and trying to make it work. I figured that if GitHub could manage it, then so could I.

Here's the first part of the problem. I wanted the user to be able to access a web interface for each repository by navigating to<repo>. I also wanted the user to be able to run git clone<repo> to clone the repository. It was straightforward to have<repo>.git work for cloning, since that URL is differentiated by the .git ending. This allows the web server to identify it and treat it as a clone request. The tricky part was getting clone to work without the .git ending: the same URL used for the web view. Somehow, these needed to be differentiated.

The solution is all in the webserver configuration. I'll show how it's done with the webserver I used, nginx.

Here are the relevant parts of the nginx configuration for

server {
  listen 443 ssl;
  server_tokens off;

  # SSL.
  include /etc/nginx/includes/;

  # Static git repo content.
  location ~ ^.*/objects/([0-9a-f]+/[0-9a-f]+|pack/pack-[0-9a-f]+.(pack|idx))$ {
    root /home/git/;

    # Rewrite the URI to include .git extension if it is missing.
    if ($uri !~ ^.*\.git.*) {
      rewrite ^(/[0-9a-zA-Z\-\_]+)/(.*)$ $1.git/$2;

  # Git content requiring git-http-backend.
  location ~ ^.*/(HEAD|info/refs|objects/info/.*|git-(upload|receive)-pack)$ {
    root /home/git/;
    if ($uri !~ ^.*\.git.*) {
      rewrite ^(/[0-9a-zA-Z\-\_]+)/(.*)$ $1.git/$2;
    client_max_body_size 0;
    fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME /usr/lib/git-core/git-http-backend;
    include fastcgi_params;
    fastcgi_param GIT_HTTP_EXPORT_ALL "";
    fastcgi_param GIT_PROJECT_ROOT /home/git;
    fastcgi_param PATH_INFO $uri;

  # Web frontend.
    location / {
    proxy_pass http://git;
    proxy_redirect off;
    proxy_set_header Host $host;
    proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto https;

The first things to notice here are the complicated-looking regexes in the first two location blocks. These two blocks are for handling git clone requests. The first location block matches content in the repository that is simply static, so the clone request just needs to know where it is on the server. The second location block handles requests that use git's so-called Smart HTTP functionality. Together, these two location blocks handle all requests made by a git clone command.

The third location block, which has no complicated regex, serves the web interface. All requests that do not originate from a git clone are handled by this block.

The result of having the three distinct blocks is that web view requests and git clone requests are differentiated. The first two blocks serve clone requests, while the third deals with the web view. The problem of differentiating between clone and web view requests is now solved.

However, this is not the end of the story. The remaining challenge was to have the web server figure out how to route a clone request without a .git ending. All of my repositories are stored as directories with the .git ending, so clone requests that include it just work. Clone requests that omit the .git ending require some rewriting.

This brings us to the second thing to notice: the if block that appears in each of the first two location blocks.

if ($uri !~ ^.*\.git.*) {
  rewrite ^(/[0-9a-zA-Z\-\_]+)/(.*)$ $1.git/$2;

Let's tackle the if block in pieces. The if block's condition is:

$uri !~ ^.*\.git.*

This condition tests whether the URL contains the .git ending. If the URL does not, the body of the if block is executed. The body contains the following rewrite rule:

rewrite ^(/[0-9a-zA-Z\-\_]+)/(.*)$ $1.git/$2;

The rewrite rule has two parameters: a regex to match the URL, and a rule for how to rewrite the URL if it matches the regex.

The regex, ^(/[0-9a-zA-Z\-\_]+)/(.*)$, contains two match groups. The first group, /[0-9a-zA-Z\-\_]+, matches the initial slash and the repository name, which can consist of letters, numbers, dashes, and underscores. The second group, .*, matches everything after the slash following the repository name. For example, let's say the requested URL is /my-repo/stuff/in/repo. This request is trying to access content in a repository called my-repo (which is actually stored as my-repo.git). The first match group in the regex will match /my-repo. The second match group will match stuff/in/repo.

Since the URL matches the regex, it gets rewritten to the form $1.git/$2, where $1 and $2 denote the first and second match groups from the regex, respectively. Ultimately, the rule rewrites the URL so that .git/ is placed between the two match groups. Thus the URL from the above example, /my-repo/stuff/in/repo, gets rewritten to /my-repo.git/stuff/in/repo. Now the URL is exactly the same as if it had included the .git ending in the first place.

In summary, this configuration allows clone and web view requests for a repository to use the same URL. As a bonus, cloning works both with and without the .git ending.