We’re going to use Glitch as a free container platform to host our application. Better yet, it will have continuous deployment! Whenever we commit to our master branch on GitHub, a secure webhook will be sent to our project, which will update, build, and restart itself.

The route that receives this webhook is built into our Node.js/Express application. We’ll be using Glitch’s hello-express template to keep things simple. Inside the route, we need to run our git commands to get our updated files as well as any build and install commands.

Note: Glitch auto-restarts Node.js projects by running npm start.

Choosing the template

Create a new hello-express project on Glitch and add your secret to the .env file by adding SECRET='randomized password here'. There’s one additional package we need, which can be installed via the Glitch UI inside package.json, or via console with npm install body-parser.

This is the POST route, along with including extra imports:

const bodyParser = require('body-parser');
app.use(bodyParser.json());
const crypto = require('crypto');
const { execSync } = require('child_process');

app.post('/git', (req, res) => {
  const hmac = crypto.createHmac('sha1', process.env.SECRET);
  const sig  = 'sha1=' + hmac.update(JSON.stringify(req.body)).digest('hex');
  if (req.headers['x-github-event'] === 'push' &&
    crypto.timingSafeEqual(Buffer.from(sig), Buffer.from(req.headers['x-hub-signature']))) {
    res.sendStatus(200);
    const commands = ['git fetch origin master',
                      'git reset --hard origin/master',
                      'git pull origin master --force',
                      'npm install',
                      // your build commands here
                      'refresh']; // fixes glitch ui
    for (const cmd of commands) {
      console.log(execSync(cmd).toString());
    }
    console.log('updated with origin/master!');
    return;
  } else {
    console.log('webhook signature incorrect!');
    return res.sendStatus(403);
  }
});

We’re interested in push events so we check the header. After, we perform a security check by creating an HMACSHA1 keyed hash with our secret and the webhook’s body which will be repository information from GitHub. GitHub sends over a signature of the same body using our secret. We compare the signature with timingSafeEqual to avoid timing attacks. Hopefully, all is well and the two match up. Otherwise, we’ll send a 403 code and skip the update.

If all is well, we send a 200 code back to GitHub and run our commands. We do this synchronously, using execSync since they depend upon each other, and we log the results in case there’s any errors or information we need later. refresh is a Glitch environment command that resets the UI and fixes the file-tree in the sidebar (which plagued me for about half an hour this weekend!). The update process generally takes 5-15 seconds for small changes. Your application won’t be available during this time.

Exporting to GitHub

Creating the GitHub webhook is actually quite straightforward but first some preparation. You’ll need a repository with at least one file so that Glitch can export to it. Once you’ve got your repository set up, add it as the remote origin via Glitch console git remote add origin {url} and send over your project. It will become the glitch branch. Create a pull request and merge this to master. Otherwise, when the webhook fires, your project might load the wrong master changes and reset itself!

I’ve seen some people set up this process pulling straight from the glitch branch but I prefer having master as the production version of a project.

Creating the webhook

Head into the repository settings and create a new webhook with your Glitch project’s secret. Make sure to choose application/json as the content-type. And that’s it. Any push events with the correct signature will trigger an update/install/restart cycle of your Glitch project 🎉.

You can see what this looks like in a live project on the PairCode repository. It’s a lightweight CodePen clone that I wrote at university and have been tinkering with lately. Glitch helped bring it back to life!

Reach out if you’re having any tricky issues 👍.