List of ngrok alternatives and other ngrok-like tunneling software and services. Focus on self-hosting.
The purpose of this list is to track and compare tunneling solutions. This is primarily targeted toward self-hosters and developers who want to do things like exposing a local webserver via a public domain name, with automatic HTTPS, even if behind a NAT or other restricted network.
I started this list because I’m looking for a simple tool/service that does the following:
- Allows me to register a domain name and automatically points the records at the server running the tunnels.
- Automatically sets up and manages HTTPS certificates (apex and subdomains) for the domain.
- Provides a client tool that tunnels HTTP/TCP connections through the server without requiring root on the client.
- Provides a simple GUI interface to allow me to map X domain/subdomain to Y port on Z client, and proxy all connections to that domain.
So far I haven’t found a tool that does all of this. In particular, while some of them can do automatic certs through Lets’s Encrypt, none of them integrate the domain registration and DNS management.
UPDATE: Since starting this list I found most of the other solutions to be either too complicated or making different tradeoffs than I would want. I have two of my own projects in this space:
- SirTunnel is I believe the minimal way of getting auto-HTTPS tunneled through to a private network. It’s just a 50-line Python script that leverages Caddy and OpenSSH, but you need to understand how it works to use it. This one is good for developers.
- boringproxy is my take on a comprehensive tunnel proxy solution. It’s in beta but currently solves almost everything I want except auto DNS management, and that’s planned. Once the server is running this is a very easy tool to use, and is targeted at non-developers.
Open source (at least with a reasonably permissive license)
- frp – Comprehensive open alternative to ngrok. Supports UDP, and has a P2P mode. I believe it uses a custom TCP protocol for multiplexing, which can either run over a single TCP connection or a connection pool.
- ngrok 1.0 – Original version of ngrok. No longer developed in favor of the commercial 2.0 version.
- localtunnel – Written in node. Popular suggestion.
- Teleport – Comprehesive control plane tool, but also supports accessing apps behind NATs. Written in Go.
- Nebula – Peer-to-peer overlay network. Developed and used internally by Slack. Similar to Tailscale but completely open source. Doesn’t use WireGuard. Written in Go.
- ZeroTier – Layer 2 overlay network. They take decentralization seriously, and like to say “decentralize until it hurts, then centralize until it works.” Written in C++.
- sshuttle – Open source project originally from one of the founders of Tailscale. Server doesn’t require root; client does. Explicitly designed to avoid TCP-over-TCP issues.
- chisel – SSH under the hood, but still uses a custom client binary. Supports auto certs from LetsEncrypt. Written in Go.
- expose – ngrok alternative written in PHP.
- Pritunl – Seems quite comprehensive and complicated. OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IPSec support.
- rathole – Similar to frp, including the config format, but with improved performance. Low resource consumption. Hot reload. Written in Rust.
- go-http-tunnel – Uses a single HTTP/2 connection for muxing. Need to manually generate certs for server and clients.
- sish – Open source ngrok/serveo alternative. SSH-based but uses a custom server written in Go. Supports WebSocket tunneling.
- tunnelto – Open source (MIT). Written in Rust.
- wstunnel – Proxies over WebSockets. Focus on proxying from behind networks that block certain protocols. Written in Haskell with executables provided.
- PageKite – Comprehensive open source solution with hosted options.
- Crowbar – Tunnels TCP connections over HTTP GET and POST requests.
- boringproxy – Designed to be very easy to use. No config files. Clients can be remote-controlled through a simple WebUI and/or REST API on the server.
- tunneller – Open source. Written in Go.
- jprq – Proxies over WebSockets. Written in Python.
- tunnel – This one is a Golang library, not a program you can just run. However, it looks easy to use for creating custom solutions. Uses a single TCP socket, and yamux for multiplexing.
- pgrok – Fork of ngrok 1.0, with more recent commits.
- SirTunnel – Minimal, self-hosted, 0-config alternative to ngrok. Similar to sish but leverages Caddy+OpenSSH rather than custom server code.
- docker-tunnel – Simple Docker-based nginx+SSH solution.
- remotemoe – SSH-based, with custom golang server. Does some cool unique things. Instead of just plain tunnels, it drops you into a basic CLI UI that offers several useful commands interactively, such as adding a custom hostname. Also allows end-to-end encryption for both HTTPS and upstream SSH. Doesn’t appear to offer non-e2e HTTPS, ie no auto Let’s Encrypt support.
- holepunch.io – Has nice hosted solution. Uses SSH for muxing.
- StaqLab Tunnel – SSH-based. Client is open source. Server doesn’t appear to be.
- tnnlink – SSH-based. Golang. Not maintained.
- Telebit – Written in JS. Code.
- SSH-J.com – Public SSH Jump & Port Forwarding server. No software, no registration, just an anonymous SSH server for forwarding. Users are encouraged to use it for SSH exposure only, to preserve end-to-end encryption. No public ports, only in-SSH connectivity. Run
ssh ssh-j.comand it will display usage information.
- Ngrok-operator – Ngrok but integrated with Kubernetes, allows developers on private kubernetes to easily access their services via Ngrok.
- ngrok 2.0 – Probably the gold standard and most popular. Closed source. Lots of features, including TLS and TCP tunnels. Doesn’t require root to run client.
- CloudFlare Tunnel – Excellent free option. Nicely integrates tunneling with the rest of Cloudflare’s products, which include DNS and auto HTTPS. Client source code is Apache 2.0 licensed and written in Golang.
- Tailscale – Built on WireGuard. Easy to use. Doesn’t include an HTTPS proxy on the public side, but could be combined with nginx/Caddy/etc. Client code available with a BSD3 license + separate patents file.
- Loophole – Offers end-to-end TLS encryption with the client automatically getting certs from Let’s Encrypt. QR codes for URL sharing. Client is open source. Can serve a local directory over WebDAV. MIT License. Written in Go.
- localhost.run – Simple hosted SSH option. Supports custom domains for a cost.
- Packetriot – Comprehensive alternative to ngrok. HTTP Inspector, Let’s Encrypt integration, doesn’t require root and Linux repos for apt, yum and dnf. Enterprise licenses and self-hosted option.
- Hoppy – WireGuard-based. Provides static IPv4 and IPv6 addresses for your machines, which is a simple and useful level of abstraction. Targeted towards self-hosters and people behind NATs.
- gw.run – Specifically focusing on securely exposing internal web apps to a group of people; not for publicly facing apps. Share access via email address then allow users to log in with common login providers like Google.
- SSHReach.me – Paid SSH-based option. Uses a simple python script.
- KubeSail – Company offering tunneling, dynamic DNS, and other services for self-hosting with Kubernetes.
- inlets – Used to be open source; now focused on a polished commercial offering. Designed to work well with Kubernetes.
- LocalToNet – Supports UDP. Free for a single tunnel. Paid supports custom domains.
- Roll your own Ngrok with Nginx, Letsencrypt, and SSH reverse tunnelling
- Poor man’s ngrok with tcp proxy and ssh reverse tunnel
- How I built Ngrok Alternative (jprq)
- Great SO answer by AJ ONeal about how these things work
- Talk by AJ ONeal about tunneling tech
- ngrok alternative: localtunnel + Caddy + Lets Encrypt
The Awesome Tunneling is a github repository by Anders Pitman