Posts in this series:

  1. Introduction (this one!)
  2. Part 1 - Set up DNS server
  3. Part 2 - Set up Web server
  4. Part 3 - Secure with DANE

So you wanna build a snowman website on a Handshake domain.

Any website (even a regular one on an ICANN domain) needs 3 things to function

  1. A domain name - hope you have one ready
  2. A DNS server - this is what tells browsers where to fetch content from
  3. A web server - someplace where content is stored or served from

Let’s quickly go through what they are (feel free to skip if you’re familiar with DNS basics).

Domain Name

Similar to how you’d buy rent a regular domain from a registrar like Namecheap or GoDaddy, get a domain on Handshake from or with a non-custodial wallet like Bob Wallet.

DNS Server

An authoritative DNS nameserver (We’ll call this a DNS server from here on) is like a redirector that stores all the subdomains (and their records) and pointers to where content is hosted. Registrars normally provide this service for free for domains you manage with them. In this series, we’ll set up our own (with PowerDNS).

Web Server

A web server hosts the content that should be shown on the website. GitHub pages, Vercel, Netlify, etc. all do this, but again in this series, we’ll set up our own (with nginx).

How do these 3 things work together?

  1. Domain name points to DNS server
  2. DNS server has records that points to Web server
  3. Web server has files and content to serve

Get a cloud Virtual Machine

We’ll have all this running on a single (cloud) machine, but they can be split up if you wish.

Most low-traffic sites can do away with a small $5/mo cloud VM from Digital Ocean (or any other cloud). This series uses a B1ls size on Azure with 1 vCPU and 0.5 GiB of memory. Feel free to scale up if the website starts getting more traffic.

While creating a VM, make sure to open 3 ports:

  • 53 for DNS
  • 80 and 443 for HTTP and HTTPS

Note: This series does not cover taking backups, setting up monitoring, etc. that you’d want to do with a typical production-level site. There’s nothing different about handshake websites and guides online work as-is for all those things.

This series uses these values as an example. Replace them with your own in all commands:

  • Domain: smartface
  • IP address of machine:

For people who have a single and simple website and don’t plan to add more websites, there’s a handy software package that wraps DNS and Web server in a single app, and takes care of DANE. You may want to use that instead:

This whole post is divided into 3 parts and in each one, there are alternatives mentioned if you prefer other software.

Before we start, credit where due (in no specific order):

To start, check out Part 1: Set up the DNS server.