Netlify is great.

What is this review about?

Recently I wanted to publish a tiny web site: literally a single HTML file. I used to run a small personal server for just such occasions, but I’ve given up on trying to keep up with security patches.

I started looking into static web hosting services with a few goals in mind:

  • I wanted to use domains I already registered elsewhere
  • I wanted HTTPS
  • I wanted it to be easy to deploy a couple static files

My first thought was S3, since I already know it pretty well; but once I started reading about how to deliver HTTPS certificates for your domain I starting questioning whether my project was worth it.

Then I decided to give Netlify a try. Here is my experience.

Can I use a domain I registered elsewhere?


Netlify tells you to add ALIAS and CNAME DNS entries. It was pretty easy. Of course they recommend switching to “Netlify DNS,” which is probably a good idea, but now that my site is working I intend to never think about this again.

What about https?

Crazy easy.

I’ve set up Let’s Encrypt manually before, and like, eventually I got it to work. With Netlify, you literally press a button that says “gimme some HTTPS” and it does everything for you.

OK that’s not quite true. The whole HTTPS verification thing doesn’t work before your DNS has propagated. So the first time I pressed the magic HTTPS button, it didn’t work; but when I came back a little later everything was good to go. I guess this would be pretty confusing if you don’t know about DNS propagation, but that’s not really the target audience here. Given that DNS is slow and confusing, this is about the best HTTPSifying experience you could have.

Are simple things easy?


To be honest, this is why I was a little hesitant to try Netlify. Their marketing copy is all about serverless functions and cloud Gatsby builds. My goals are more like: I have some files that are currently on a computer in my house, and I would like them to be on the internet. I was worried I would have to shoehorn my 2 HTML files into some kind of cutting edge build system to get started.

As it turns out, this is not the case at all! Netlify provides a super useful CLI which lets you manually push your content, or script your own deploys. For some reason this is barely emphasized in their documentation. But it is delightful.

The hardest part was installing the netlify-cli tool. The hardest part of installing netlify-cli was that I needed a newer Node.js (or npm maybe?) than whatever is included with Ubuntu. This is probably no issue for Modern Web Developers but I assume those types are already super into cloud Gatsby builds anyways. Anyhow, eventually I got a sufficiently recent Node.js (or npm?) and successfully installed netlify-cli.

The CLI is so good. netlify login acquires and saves an auth token. Once you’ve done that netlify deploy copies files to your Netlify site. That’s it! I love it!

Anything bad?

So far my only complaint is about analytics pricing.

Netlify’s pricing structure goes like this: small sites are free, and you pay if you need more resources, or various premium features. One of those paid add-ons is server-side analytics. But the cost is $9 per month per site.

It’s the per-site aspect that feels excessive. I currently have 2 sites that get single-digit page views on Netlify, and I plan to move over one or two others. I’d like to see basic page view counts and such, but $36 feels like a lot. Whereas I would be willing to pay, I don’t know, $12 per month to get analytics for all my tiny sites that no one visits. And then sure, if the traffic hits a meaningful volume, charge more; that would feel totally fair.

That said, I am currently paying no money to use Netlify, so I realize it’s not a great look to complain about their pricing.

For now, it’s probably best if I don’t have access to analytics, because then I can maintain the delusion that someone reads this stuff.


Somehow, Netlify made getting my files online a delight.