Title:Web Application Installation
Last-Modified:2003/08/07 19:02:40
Author:Troy Dack <tad at>
Discussions-To:gentoo-dev at
Type:Standards Track
Created:02 August 2003
Post-History:07 Aug 2003



Based on comments posted to gentoo-dev mailing list [1] [2] [3] by:

Stuart Herbert <>, Max Kalika <>, Robin H.Johnson <> and others


Web Application
an application that requires a web server to function and interacts with the user via a browser
Web Application Instance
An apparent install of the Web Application that is served up via the webserver. There may be any number of instances per Web Application. This is a major use for web applications. Our Gentoo Zope setup already provides instances and can be used for some concepts on this matter.
Web Application Setup Program
A script similar in function to zope-config that sets up instances.
Document Root
a location in the file system that forms the main document tree visible from the web


When describing the location of a directory in the file system it wil be shown with a trailing slash, eg:


When describing the location of a specific file (irrespective of any file extention) it will shown with out a trailing slash, eg:



To define where and how web based applications should be installed by Gentoo.


Currently there is no standard defined regarding the installation of web based applicaitons in Gentoo. This leads to ebuild authors creating a variety of methods to determine:

  • where the application should be installed
  • what user and permissions the application should be given
  • where any configuration files related to the application should be installed.

Due to a lack of standard install method configuration files are at risk of being overwritten during upgrade, potentially causing system administrators down tine as they have to reconfigure web applications after an upgrade.


A discussion on the gentoo-dev mailing list [1] raised the following points regarding how Gentoo handles the installation of web based applications:

  1. Gentoo installed web applications (eg: horde, phpbb, cacti, phpmysql) should not be installed in the Document Root of a web server.

  2. Web applications should not have their configuration files installed under the Document Root of a web server.

    1. Web Application must be slotted by their major version numbers to further avoid downtime when true configuration changes are required.
  3. Web applications should not be owned by the same user as the web server.

  4. It should be easily possible to have multiple instances of a web application without any duplication of source files.

  5. It should be immediately apparent how to control instances of a web application.


Max Kalika <> stated that he has a preliminary eclass that implements a good deal of this GLEP.

Stuart Herbert <> has committed:


to CVS, this is a stop-gap measure whilst this GLEP is being finalised.

1. Web Server

A common default web server will have to be selected and ebuild authors should ensure that their applications contain configuration directives suitable for that server. Given the popularity of the Apache web server it is suggested that Apache be selected as the Gentoo default web server.

Whilst it is acknowledged that other web servers do exist and are used, there has to be an assumption made somewhere that people who choose to use something other than the default have enough knowledge to adapt configurations accordingly.

1.1 Default Document Root

To ensure the greatest flexibility when installing applications the following Document Root locations are to be used:

  • For single host installations:

  • For multiple virtual host installastions:

    /var/www/<fully qualified domain name>/htdocs/

1.2 Apache 2

All web application .ebuild will honour any USE flags that are intended to add support for Apache 2 as well as supporting Apache 1 installations.

2. Virtual Host Flexibility

In a similar vein to Gentoo's Zope scripts, namely zope-config, we should be able to have multiple instances of a single web application without duplicating all of the files.

This also allows system administrators to control where web applications will appear on their system, as well as to customize a file in a single instance of a web application without effecting the original material.

This is easily acheived thru use of Apache configuration directivies and symlinks. For PHP instances, see for some details.

The primary idea here is that to the web-application, it appears that all of it's configuration and files are in the instance directory, but the files are physicalled located elsewhere.

2.1 New "vhost" USE Flag

To enable support for multiple virtual host installations a new USE flag is to be added to Portage. The use flag will be:


When vhost is _set_ the installation location and configuration for the web application will be effected, see below for more details.

2.2 VHost Configuration Tool

To assist administration of multiple virtual hosts a "VHost Configuration Tool" needs to be developed and implemented. Initial discussion and regarding the VHost Config tool can be found at

The VHost Configuration Utility will need to be a seperate package, maintained by Gentoo. Apache .ebuilds will require the VHost Config tool as a dependency (DEPEND).


3. Application Installation Location

The current accepted standard Document Root in Gentoo is /home/httpd. The discussion suggest that this is not the best location to install web based applications.

Web applications should be installed outside of the Document Root using the following defaults:

  • for files to be served to clients:

    /usr/share/webapps/${PF}/public_html/ for files served by the web server
    /usr/share/webapps/${PF}/cgi-bin/ for CGI-BIN files
  • install configuration files in:

  • for documentation files (not served to clients):


3.1 Single Host Installation

For single host installations the .ebuild will make the required configurations changes and symlinks using the VHost Config tool to ensure that the web application is available to be served from:


3.2 Virtual Host Installation

For installations that support multiple virtual hosts the .ebuild will install the web application into the default location and then leave configuration to the user through the VHost Config tool.


4. Application Configuration

Having application configuration files in the Document Root of a web server is a potential security risk. Additionally given the way that many ebuilds currently install web applications it can also lead to the overwriting of important configuration files.

As stated above web application configuration files are to be installed into:


By installing application configuration files in /etc Portage CONFIG_PROTECT features can be used to ensure that configuration files are not overwritten.

4.1 Virtual Host Support


5. Application Permissions

Installing web applications and giving the web server ownership of the files is a security risk. This can possibly lead to application configuration files being accessed by unwanted third parties.

All web applications should be owned by root unless the application absolutely requires write access to its installation directories at execution time.

Backwards Compatibility

There may be some issues regarding compatibility with existing installs of web applications. This is particularly true if the default Document Root is moved from what is accepted as the current standard (/home/httpd).

The main issues are:
  • transition of existing configuration files to the /etc/webapps/${PF}/ directory.
  • modification/reconfiguration of applications so that they are aware of the location of configuration files.
  • creating approriate Apache configuration snippets for inclusion in the Apache configuration files.


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