How to tunnel localhost to the public Internet

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Introduction

In this article, I’m going to show you how you can tunnel your localhost environment to a public Internet address that can be accessed by other services you are using for testing.

Why tunnel localhost to a public Internet address?

If you are optimizing the front-end of a given web application and want to see how effective your changes are, you can use a tool like GTMetrix or Pingdom Website Testing.

The problem is that those tools can access only a public Internet address, not your localhost environment. And, while you can deploy your temporary changes to a QA environment that’s publicly accessible, there’s a much simpler way to achieve this goal.

Or, while developing RevoGain, the most awesome Revolut trading grain calculator, I had to test the FastSpring payment integration. The payment callbacks need a public Internet address that FastSpring calls after making a purchase. To test the integration, you’d need to expose your localhost environment to a public Internet address so that FastSpring can call your own environment.

And the solution to this problem is to open a networking tunnel between localhost and some public Internet address all those services can access.

Networking tunnel

In networking, a tunnel allows you to transport packets from a private network to a public network. For instance, tunneling is used with VPN (virtual private networks) to secure network connections.

The Linux ssh port forwarding is also using another example of a networking tunnel, which allows you to transport packets securely from your localhost environment to a public network.

LocalXpose

While there are many ways to create a networking tunnel, my favorite tool is LocalXpose because I can choose the region where to open the tunnel. This has allowed me to check various use cases when I integrated the FastSpring payment system.

@echo off

loclx account login 
loclx tunnel http --https-redirect

To open an HTTP or HTTPS tunnel, all I have to do is run the following command:

> tunnel

┃ Tunnels
┃ Running tunnels on current instance

Type   Region   From                     To                       Status

http   us       6mxq9u9azj.loclx.io      http://127.0.0.1:8080    running

That’s it!

Now, localhost:8080 is available at the 6mxq9u9azj.loclx.io‎ address.

LocalXpose Tunnel

Or, if you want to choose a certain region, you can use the --region flag, like this:

loclx tunnel http --https-redirect --region eu

And, this will open a tunnel in the European Union, not the United STates, which is the default region.

Testing time

To test how well the front-end performs, I can now use GTMetrix to analyze the Spring Boot server running on my localhost environment:

Tunnel localhost to the public Internet

Awesome, right?

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Conclusion

Exposing your localhost environment to a public Internet address is a very handy feature when testing a web application.

LocalXpose is a very simple tool that allows you to create a networking tunnel between your private web server and a public Internet address.

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