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Getting Started with zrok

What's a zrok?

zrok (/ziːɹɒk/ ZEE-rock) is a secure, open-source, self-hostable sharing platform that simplifies shielding and sharing network services or files. There's a hardened zrok-as-a-service offering available at with a generous free tier.

Open Source

zrok is licensed under Apache 2.0.

Check the roadmap if you're thinking about the future. We would love to hear your ideas for zrok!

The best ways to engage are Discourse for questions and GitHub Issues for documenting problems.

Read more about zrok open source.

Ziti native

zrok is a Ziti Native Application, built on the OpenZiti platform, and supported by the OpenZiti community and NetFoundry team.

What's it for?

Use zrok to share a running service, like a web server or a network socket, or to share a directory of static files.

If sharing publicly, you can reserve a subdomain, enable authentication options, or both. Public shares proxy HTTPS to your service or files.

If sharing privately, only users with the share token can access your share. In addition to what you can share publicly, private shares can include TCP and UDP services.

Installing the zrok Command

Windows logo


Binary executable


macOS logo


Binary executable


Linux logo


DEB, RPM packages


Generating an Invitation


If not using (zrok-as-a-service), you must configure the zrok command to use your instance. See the instance configuration guide in the self-hosting section for details.

Invite yourself to zrok by running the zrok invite command:

zrok invite
enter and confirm your email address...


[ Submit ]

invitation sent to ''!

The zrok invite command presents a small form that allows you to enter (and then confirm) your email address. Tabbing to the [ Submit ] button will send the request to your configured zrok service.

Next, check the email where you sent the invite. You should receive a message asking you to click a link to create your zrok account. When you click that link, you will be brought to a web page that will allow you to set a password for your new account:

Enter a Password

Enter a password and its confirmation, and click the Register Account button. You'll see the following:

Successful Registration

For now, we'll ignore the "enable your shell for zrok" section. Just click the zrok web portal link:

Web Login

After clicking the Log In button, you'll be brought into the zrok web console:

Web Console; Empty

Congratulations! Your zrok account is ready to go!

Enabling Your zrok Environment

When your zrok account was created, the service generated a secret token that identifies and authenticates in a single step. Protect your secret token as if it were a password, or an important account number; it's a secret, protect it.

When we left off you had downloaded, extracted, and configured your zrok environment. In order to use that environment with your account, you'll need to enable it. Enabling an environment generates a secure identity and the necessary underlying security policies with the OpenZiti network hosting the zrok service.

From the web console, click on your email address in the upper right corner of the header. That drop down menu contains an Enable Your Environment link. Click that link and a modal dialog will be shown like this:

Enable Modal Dialog

This dialog box shows you the zrok enable command that you can use to enable any shell to work with your zrok account with a single command.

Let's copy that command and paste it into your shell:

$ zrok enable klFEoIi0QAg7 
⣻ contacting the zrok service...

After a few seconds, the message will change and indicate that the enable operation succeeded:

$ zrok enable klFEoIi0QAg7 
⣻ the zrok environment was successfully enabled...

Now, if we run a zrok status command, you will see the details of your environment:

zrok status

apiEndpoint env


Secret Token <<SET>>
Ziti Identity <<SET>>

Excellent... our environment is now fully enabled.

If we return to the web console, we'll now see the new environment reflected in the explorer view:

New Environment in Web UI

In my case, the environment is named michael@ziti-lx, which is the username of my shell and the hostname of the system the shell is running on.


Should you want to use a non-default name for your environment, you can pass the -d option to the zrok enable command. See zrok enable --help for details.

If you click on the environment node in the explorer in the web console, the details panel shown at the bottom of the page will change:

Empty Environment

The explorer supports clicking, dragging, mouse wheel zooming, and selecting the nodes in the graph for more information (and available actions) for the selected node. If you ever get lost in the explorer, click the Zoom to Fit zoom to fit icon in the lower right corner of the explorer.

If we click on the Detail tab for our environment, we'll see something like:

Environment Detail


With your zrok account you can zrok enable multiple environments. This will allow you to run zrok share in one environment, and zrok access in other environments.

Your environment is fully ready to go. Now we can move on to the fun stuff...


zrok is designed to make sharing resources as effortless as possible, while providing a high degree of security and control.

Ephemeral by Default

Shared resources are ephemeral by default; as soon as you terminate the zrok share command, the entire share is removed and is no longer available to any users. Identifiers for shared resources are randomly allocated when the share is created.

Public Shares and Frontends

Resources that are shared publicly are exposed to any users on the internet who have access to the zrok instance's "frontend".

A frontend is an HTTPS listener exposed to the internet, that lets any user with your ephemeral share token access your publicly shared resources.

For example, I might create a public share using the zrok share public command, which results in my zrok instance exposing a URL like to access my resources.

In this case, my share was given the "share token" of 2ptgbr8tlfvk. That URL can be given to any user, allowing them to immediately access the shared resources directly from my local environment, all without exposing any access to my private, secure environment. The physical network location of my environment is not exposed to anonymous consumers of my resources.


Here is the --help output from zrok share public:

zrok share public
Error: accepts 1 arg(s), received 0
zrok share public <target> [flags]

--backend-mode string The backend mode {proxy, web, caddy, drive} (default "proxy")
--basic-auth stringArray Basic authentication users (<username:password>,...)
--frontends stringArray Selected frontends to use for the share (default [public])
--headless Disable TUI and run headless
-h, --help help for public
--insecure Enable insecure TLS certificate validation for <target>

Global Flags:
-p, --panic Panic instead of showing pretty errors
-v, --verbose Enable verbose logging

[ERROR]: an error occurred (accepts 1 arg(s), received 0)

<target> defines the path to the local resource that you intend to share. The form of <target> depends on the --backend-mode that you're using.

In the case of --backend-mode proxy, <target> should be a URL to an HTTP endpoint.

In the case of --backend-mode web, <target> is the path to a file on disk that serves as the "root" of the file tree to be shared.

If we return to the web console, we see our share in the explorer:

Web Console Share

If we click on our new share in the explorer, we can see the share details: Share Details

If we click on the frontend endpoint a new browser tab opens and we see the content of our share: Share Frontend

If we click on the environment in the explorer, we're shown all of the shares for that environment (including our new share), along with a spark line that shows the activity:

Environment Spark Line

And as soon as I terminate the zrok share client, the resources are removed from the zrok environment.

If we try to reload the frontend endpoint in our web browser, we'll see:

Not Found

Private Shares

zrok also provides a powerful private sharing model. If I execute the following command:

$ zrok share private http://localhost:8080

The zrok service will respond with the following:

access your share with: zrok access private wvszln4dyz9q

Rather than allowing access to your service through a public frontend, a private share is only exposed to the underlying OpenZiti network, and can only be accessed using the zrok access command.

The zrok access private wvszln4dyz9q command can be run by any zrok user, allowing them to create and bind a local HTTP listener, that allows for private access to your shared resources.

Proxy Backend Mode

Without specifying a backend mode, the zrok share command will assume that you're trying to share a proxy resource. A proxy resource is usually some private HTTP/HTTPS endpoint (like a development server, or a private application) running in your local environment. Usually such an endpoint would have no inbound connectivity except for however it is reachable from your local environment. It might be running on localhost, or only listening on a private LAN segment behind a firewall.

For these services a proxy share will allow those endpoints to be reached, either publicly or privately through the zrok service.

Web Backend Mode

The zrok share command accepts a --backend-mode option. Besides proxy, the current v0.3 release (as of this writing) also supports a web mode. The web mode allows you to specify a local folder on your filesystem, and instantly turns your zrok client into a web server, exposing your web content either publicly or privately without having to a configure a web server.

Reserved Shares

zrok shares are ephemeral unless you specifically create a "reserved" share.

A reserved share can be re-used multiple times; it will survive termination of the zrok share command, allowing for longer-lasting semi-permanent access to shared resources.

The first step is to create the reserved share:

$ zrok reserve public --backend-mode web v0.3_getting_started
[ 0.275] INFO main.(*reserveCommand).run: your reserved share token is 'mltwsinym1s2'
[ 0.275] INFO main.(*reserveCommand).run: reserved frontend endpoint:

I'm asking the zrok service to reserve a share with a web backend mode, pointing at my local docs folder.

You'll want to remember the share token (mltwsinym1s2 in this case), and the frontend endpoint URL. If this were a private reserved share, there would not be a frontend URL.

If we do nothing else, and then point a web browser at the frontend endpoint, we get:

Not Found

This is the 404 error message returned by the zrok frontend. We're getting this because we haven't yet started up a zrok share for the service. Let's do that:

This command:

$ zrok share reserved mltwsinym1s2

...results in a new share backend starting up and connecting to the existing reserved share:

zrok share reserved

And now if we refresh the frontend endpoint URL in the web browser, we'll see an index of the docs directory:

zrok docs share

With the reserved share, we're free to stop and restart the zrok share reserved command as many times as we want, without losing the token for our share.

When we're done with the reserved share, we can release it using this command:

$ zrok release mltwsinym1s2
[ 0.230] INFO main.(*releaseCommand).run: reserved share 'mltwsinym1s2' released

Concepts Review

In summary, zrok lets you easily and securely share resources with both general internet users (through public sharing) and also with other zrok users (through private sharing).

Here's a quick review of the zrok mental model and the vocabulary.

Instance and Account

You create an account with a zrok instance. Your account is identified by a username and a password, which you use to log into the web console. Your account also has a secret token, which you will use to authenticate from the zrok command-line to interact with the instance.

You create a new account with a zrok instance through the zrok invite command.


Using your secret token you use the zrok command-line interface to create an environment. An environment corresponds to a single command-line user on a specific host system.

You create a new environment by using the zrok enable command.


Once you've enabled an environment, you then create one or more shares. Shares have either a public or private sharing mode. Shares share a specific type of resource using a backend mode. As of this writing zrok supports a proxy backend mode to share local HTTP resources as a reverse proxy. zrok also supports a web backend mode to share local file and HTML resources by enabling a basic HTTP server.

Every share is identified by a share token. Public shares can be accessed through either a frontend instance offered through the zrok instance, or through the zrok access command. Private shares can only be accessed through the zrok access command.

You use the zrok share command to create and enable ephemeral shares.

Reserved Shares

zrok supports creating shares that have a consistent share token that survives restarts of the zrok share command. These are considered non-ephemeral, and is callled a reserved share.

You use the zrok reserve command to create reserved shares. Reserved shares last until you use the zrok release command to delete them.

Self-Hosting an Instance

Interested in self-hosting your own zrok instance? See the self-hosting guides!