How To Install Brotli For NGINX Open Source On Debian 10

Brotli is a high-performance, lossless compression algorithm developed and maintained by Google. It can be use by webservers to compress files like .html and .css files and increase the perforce of websites and reduce their bandwidth requirements.

NGINX does not provide a compiled brotli module for their open source version. This means that you will need to compile NGINX along with the brotli module from source.

Build NGINX with brotli

First, install all the packages that will be needed:

apt install brotli git build-essential 

You will also need to make sure that you have the source code repository enabled in your /etc/apt.d/sources.list file. There should be a line that looks like the following (it should being deb-src):

deb-src <REPO URL> buster main

Next, make a build directory and move into it:

mkdir /tmp/nginx-build
cd /tmp/nginx-build

Now, download the NGINX source code from the Debian repositories:

apt source nginx

Download the brotli NGINX module source code:

git clone https://github.com/google/ngx_brotli.git
cd ngx_brotli/
git submodule update --init --recursive
cd ../

Now, you need to include the brotli module in the build configuration. Open the build rules file at /tmp/nginx-build/nginx-<VERSION>/debian/rules with a text editor:

nano nginx-<VERSION>/debian/rules

You need to add the following line into the full_configure_flags section between the --with- and the --add-dynamic-module lines:

                         --add-module=/tmp/build-nginx/ngx_brotli \

Here is the full section shown with the line included:

full_configure_flags := \
                        $(common_configure_flags) \
                        --with-http_addition_module \
                        --with-http_geoip_module=dynamic \
                        --with-http_gunzip_module \
                        --with-http_gzip_static_module \
                        --with-http_image_filter_module=dynamic \
                        --with-http_sub_module \
                        --with-http_xslt_module=dynamic \
                        --with-stream=dynamic \
                        --with-stream_ssl_module \
                        --with-stream_ssl_preread_module \
                        --with-mail=dynamic \
                        --with-mail_ssl_module \
                        --add-module=/tmp/build-nginx/ngx_brotli \
                        --add-dynamic-module=$(MODULESDIR)/http-auth-pam \
                        --add-dynamic-module=$(MODULESDIR)/http-dav-ext \
                        --add-dynamic-module=$(MODULESDIR)/http-echo \
                        --add-dynamic-module=$(MODULESDIR)/http-upstream-fair \
                        --add-dynamic-module=$(MODULESDIR)/http-subs-filter

Move back into the NGINX source directory:

cd /tmp/build-nginx/nginx-<VERSION>/

Then build NGINX:

dpkg-buildpackage -b

When this finished there will be a large number of NGINX install packages in the directory above. To install the full package move back a directory:

cd ..

Install the .deb file that begins nginx-full...

dpkg -i nginx-full_<VERSION>_amd64.deb

Configure NGINX

Next, create the configuration so that NGINX will use the module. First, move to the NGINX configuration directory:

cd /etc/nginx/conf.d/

Create a dedicated configuration file for the brotli module with a text editor:

nano brotli.conf

Copy and past the following contents in the editor

brotli on;
brotli_static on;
brotli_types text/plain text/css application/javascript application/json image/svg+xml application/xml+rss;

Finally, restart NGINX:

systemctl restart nginx.service

Testing

The last step in any server configuration is testing. This confirms that your changes are working as you expected.

We will use curl to make a tell the server that we want brotli compression -H 'Accept-Encoding: br' and then to only print the connection headers -I of the server’s response:

$ curl -I -H 'Accept-Encoding: br' https://elliotcooper.com

This prints the following reply:

HTTP/2 200
date: Thu, 23 Apr 2020 12:45:55 GMT
server: Apache/2.4.38 (Debian)
strict-transport-security: max-age=15552000; includeSubDomains
last-modified: Wed, 08 Apr 2020 14:53:30 GMT
etag: "15e8-5a2c8a9d7bf77-br"
accept-ranges: bytes
vary: Accept-Encoding
content-encoding: br
content-length: 1539
content-type: text/html

This line:

content-encoding: br

indicates that the server supports serving pages with brotli (br).