MERECAT.CONF(5) File Formats Manual MERECAT.CONF(5)


merecat.confmerecat httpd configuration file


When merecat starts up it looks for its configuration file, /etc/merecat.conf. This manual page documents the settings available, which allows for more advanced setups. For simpler use-cases, however, you may not need a merecat.conf since the server runs fine with only command line parameters.


The syntax of the config file is UNIX style key = value, separated by whitespace. The “#” character marks the start of a comment to end of line. The \ character can be used as an escape character.
Note: changes to the configuration file are require a restart of merecat, unlike many other UNIX daemons SIGHUP does not reload the .conf file.

Configuration Directives

charset =STRING
Character set to use with text MIME types, default “UTF-8”. If the default unicode charset causes trouble, try “iso-8859-1”.
check-referer = <true | false>
Enable check for external sites referencing material on your web server. For more information on referrers, see merecat(8). Disabled by default.
check-symlinks = <true | false>
For increased security, set this to true. Unless running chrooted in which case this is not really necessary. Disabled by default.
chroot = <true | false>
Change web server root to WEBDIR, or the current directory, if no WEBDIR is given as argument. Chrooting is a security measure and means that merecat.conf cannot access files outside it, unless files are bind mounted, or similar into the chroot. Disabled by default.
compression-level = -1..9
Control the compression level of the built-in Apache-like mod_deflate. The default value is -1, which gives a reasonable compromize between speed and compression. To disable compression set this to 0 and to get maximum compression, 9.
The default setting, -1, means all "text/*" MIME type files, larger than 256 bytes, are compressed before sending to the client.
directory = DIR
If no WEBDIR is given on the command line this option can be used to change the web server document root. Defaults to the current directory. When chrooting this is the root directory, see the data-directory directive for more help.
data-directory = DIR
This setting is only relevant when chrooting, it adjusts the web server document root relative to the directory directive.
global-passwd = <true | false>
Set this to true to protect the entire directory tree with a single .htpasswd and/or .htaccess file. When unset, which is the default, merecat.conf looks for a local .htpasswd and .htaccess file, or serves the file without password.
hostname = HOSTNAME
The hostname to bind to when multihoming. For more details on this, see below discussion.
list-dotfiles = <true | false>
If dotfiles should be skipped in directory listings. Disabled by default.
local-pattern =PATTERN
Used with check-referer, see merecat(8) for more details.
max-age = SEC
Controls the global max-age setting, in seconds, set in the HTTP/1.1 “Cache-Control: max-age” header, returned with all responses. The default setting is disabled since v2.32 and the user is recommended to use per-resource cache control. See the server location directive for details.
port = PORT
The web server Internet port to listen to, defaults to 80, or 443 when HTTPS is enabled. See the ssl section below for more on configuring an HTTPS server.
url-pattern =PATTERN
Used with check-referer, see merecat(8) for more details.
username =NAME
Set username to drop privileges to after startup. Defaults to "nobody" which usually is defined on all UNIX systems.
virtual-host = <true | false>
Enable virtual hosting, disabled by default. For more information on this, see merecat(8).
user-agent-deny =PATTERN
Wildcard pattern to deny access to illicit hammering bots. When set a matching user-agent will receive a 403 for all its requests. Use for instance “**SemrushBot**” or “**SemrushBot**|**MJ12Bot**|**DotBot**” to match multiple user-agents.
The default is disabled, i.e. all user-agents are allowed.
Wildcard pattern for CGI programs, for instance “**.cgi” or “**.cgi|/cgi-bin/*”. See the dedicated CGI section in merecat(8) for more on this.
enabled = <true | false>
The CGI module is disabled by default.
limit = NUM
Maximum number of allowed simultaneous CGI programs. Default 1.
Wildcard pattern for PHP scripts, for instance “**.php” or “**.php5|**.php4|**.php”.
enabled = <true | false>
The PHP module is disabled by default.
cgi-path =/path/to/php-cgi
Default is “/usr/bin/php-cgi
Wildcard pattern for triggering SSI, for instance “**.shtml” or “**.shtml|**.stm|**.shtm”.
enabled = <true | false>
The SSI module is disabled by default.
cgi-path =/path/to/ssi
Default is “cgi-bin/ssi”. See ssi(8) for more information.
silent = <true | false>
This setting can be used to silence “[an error occurred while processing the directive]”, shown when an error occurrs during SSI processing. Default disabled (false).
ssl {
protocol =PROTOCOL
Minimum SSL/TLS protocol level to enable. Can be one of: SSLv3, TLSv1, TLSv1.1, TLSv1.2, TLSv1.3. The default minimum protocol is TLSv1.1. Note, some (Linux) distributions have SSLv3 disabled by default in their OpenSSL packages.
ciphers =CIPHERS
The preferred list of ciphers the server supports. For a list of available ciphers, see the ciphers(1) man page. The default covers both TLSv1.3 (new ciphersuite) and older cipher list:
HIGH:!aNULL:!kRSA:!PSK:!SRP:!MD5:!RC4:!DHE-RSA-CAMELLIA256-SHA:             \ 
!DHE-RSA-CAMELLIA128-SHA:!ECDHE-RSA-CHACHA20-POLY1305:                      \ 
certfile = /path/to/cert.pem
Public part of HTTPS certificate, optionally with full certificate chain. E.g., fullchain.pem if you use Let's Encrypt. Only PEM format is supported.
keyfile = /path/to/key.pem
Private key of HTTPS certificate, e.g., privkey.pem if you use Let's Encrypt. Only PEM format is supported.
Note: This file must be kept private and should not be in the WEBROOT directory.
dhfile = /path/th/dhparam.pem
Optional Diffie-Hellman parameters. Not secret, unlike the keyfile the dhfile can be published online, if necessary. Create one like this:
openssl dhparam -out dhparam.pem 2048
server name {
port = PORT
Server port to listen to.
ssl { ... }
Same as the global settings, above, only for this server.
locationPATTERN” {
path = path/to/rewrite
If a server location directive is found it has precedence over any redirect or virtual host. It is primarily used to rewrite, or redirect, requests insde the current server context.
E.g., for handling certbot HTTP-01 renewal, use this in the port 80 server context. Any other path will be redirected to HTTPS, using the below redirect directive:
location "/.well-known/acme-challenge/**" { 
    path = "letsencrypt/.well-known/acme-challenge/" 
redirectPATTERN” {
code = CODE
HTTP redirect code to use, default: 301. Supported codes are: 301, 302, 303, 307.
location =proto://$host:port$request_uri$args
Location to return for redirect, e.g. to redirect all request for HTTP to HTTPS for the same (virtual) host:
redirect "/**" { 
    code = 301 
    location = "https://$host$request_uri$args" 


Jef Poskanzer ⟨⟩ wrote the famous thttpd which merecat.conf is based on.
Joachim Nilsson ⟨⟩ added the .conf file parser and this man page.
August 15, 2019 merecat (2.32)