How To Install Fathom Analytics on Ubuntu 20.04

How To Install Fathom Analytics on Ubuntu 20.04


Fathom Analytics is an open-source, self-hosted web analytics application that focuses on simplicity and privacy. It is written in Go and ships as a single binary file, making installation relatively straightforward.

In this tutorial you will install and configure Fathom, then install Nginx to act as a reverse proxy for the Fathom app. Finally, you will enable secure HTTPS connections by using Certbot to download and configure SSL certificates from the Let’s Encrypt Certificate Authority.


In order to complete this tutorial, you’ll first need the following:

  • An Ubuntu 20.04 server, with the UFW firewall enabled and a non-root user with sudo privileges configured. Please read our Initial Server Setup with Ubuntu 20.04 to learn more about setting up these requirements
  • A domain name pointed at your server’s public IP address. This should be something like example.com or fathom.example.com, for instance. If you’re using DigitalOcean, please see our DNS Quickstart for information on creating domain resources in our control panel.

When you’ve satisfied all the prerequisites, proceed to Step 1, where you’ll download and install Fathom.

Step 1 — Downloading Fathom

To install the Fathom software, you’ll first download the latest release, then extract the executable file to the /usr/local/bin directory.

First, move to a directory you can write to. The /tmp directory is a good choice:

  1. cd /tmp

In your web browser, visit the GitHub page for Fathom’s latest software release, then find the file with a name like fathom_1.2.1_linux_amd64.tar.gz. The version number may be different.

Right-click on the link to the file, then select Copy Link (or similar, depending on your browser).

Use the curl command to download the file from the link you just copied:

  1. curl -L -O https://github.com/usefathom/fathom/releases/download/v1.2.1/fathom_1.2.1_linux_amd64.tar.gz

You should now have a fathom_1.2.1_linux_amd64.tar.gz file in your /tmp directory. Use the tar command to extract the fathom executable and move it to /usr/local/bin:

  1. sudo tar -C /usr/local/bin/ -xzf fathom*.tar.gz fathom

The sudo command is necessary because /usr/local/bin is a protected directory, so you need superuser privileges to write to it.

Now use sudo and chmod to update the permissions of the fathom binary:

  1. sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/fathom

This makes fathom executable. To test it out, run fathom --version:

  1. fathom --version
Fathom version 1.2.1, commit 8f7c6d2e45ebb28651208e2a7320e29948ecdb2c, built at 2018-11-30T09:21:37Z

The command will print out Fathom’s version number and some additional details. You’ve successfully downloaded and installed the Fathom binary. Next you’ll configure and run Fathom for the first time.

Step 2 — Configuring and Running Fathom

Before configuring Fathom you’re going to create a new fathom user on your system. This new user account will be used to run the Fathom server, which will help isolate and secure the service.

Make a new user named fathom with the adduser command:

  1. sudo adduser --system --group --home /opt/fathom fathom

This creates a special --system user, meaning it has no password and cannot log in like a normal user could. We also make a fathom group using the --group flag, and a home directory in /opt/fathom.

Move to the fathom user’s home directory now:

  1. cd /opt/fathom

Now we have to execute a few commands that need to be run as the fathom user. To do this, open a bash shell as the fathom user using sudo:

  1. sudo -u fathom bash

Your prompt will change to something like fathom@host:~$. Until we exit this shell, every command we run will be run as the fathom user.

Now you’re ready to set up a configuration file for Fathom. One item we’ll need in this configuration file is a random string that Fathom will use for signing and encryption purposes. Use the openssl command to generate a random string now:

  1. openssl rand --base64 32

Copy the string to your clipboard, or note it down on a temporary scratch document of some sort, then open a new .env file for the configuration:

  1. nano /opt/fathom/.env

This will open a new blank file in the nano text editor. Feel free to use your favorite editor instead.

Paste the following into the file, making sure to update the random string to the one you generated previously:


This configuration first specifies that the server should only listen on localhost ( port 8080, and that it should use an SQLite database file called fathom.db.

Save and close the file. In nano you can press CTRL+O then ENTER to save, then press CTRL+X to exit.

Now that the database is configured, we can add the first user to our Fathom instance:

  1. fathom user add --email="your_email" --password="your_password"

Since this is the first time you’re running fathom with the database configured, you should notice some initial database migrations happening:

INFO[0000] Fathom version 1.2.1, commit 8f7c6d2e45ebb28651208e2a7320e29948ecdb2c, built at 2018-11-30T09:21:37Z INFO[0000] Configuration file: /opt/fathom/.env INFO[0000] Connected to sqlite3 database: /opt/fathom/fathom.db INFO[0000] Applied 26 database migrations! INFO[0000] Created user sammy@example.com

Your fathom.db database file is now created and the user is added.

Start the Fathom server now to test it out:

  1. fathom server
INFO[0000] Fathom version 1.2.1, commit 8f7c6d2e45ebb28651208e2a7320e29948ecdb2c, built at 2018-11-30T09:21:37Z INFO[0000] Configuration file: /opt/fathom/.env INFO[0000] Connected to sqlite3 database: /opt/fathom/fathom.db

In a second terminal connected to your server, fetch the homepage of your Fathom instance using curl:

  1. curl localhost:8080
<!DOCTYPE html> <html class="no-js" lang="en"> <head> <title>Fathom - simple website analytics</title> <link href="assets/css/styles.css?t=1543569696966" rel="stylesheet"> . . .

You should see a few lines of HTML code printed to your screen. This shows that the server is up and responding to requests on localhost.

Back in your first terminal, exit the fathom server process by pressing CTRL+C.

You’re all done running commands as the fathom user, so exit that session as well:

  1. exit

Your shell prompt should return to normal.

Fathom is now fully configured and you’ve successfully run it manually from the command line. Next we’ll set Fathom up to run as a Systemd service.

Step 3 — Setting Up Fathom as a Systemd Service

To run fathom serve at all times, even when you’re not logged into the server, you’ll set it up as a service with Systemd. Systemd is a service manager that handles starting, stopping, and restarting services on Ubuntu and many other Linux distributions.

The fathom.service file you create will contain all the configuration details that Systemd needs to properly run the server. Open the new file now:

  1. sudo nano /etc/systemd/system/fathom.service

Add the following into the file:

Description=Fathom Analytics server

ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/fathom server


This file specifies when the service should be launched (After=network.target, meaning after the network is up), that it should be run as the fathom user and group, that Systemd should always try to restart the process if it exits (Restart=always), that it should be run from the /opt/fathom directory, and what command to use to run the server (ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/fathom server).

Save and close the file. Reload the Systemd config:

  1. sudo systemctl daemon-reload

Enable the service:

  1. sudo systemctl enable fathom.service

Enabling the service means that Systemd will start it automatically during system startup. We’ll also need to start the service manually now, just this once:

  1. sudo systemctl start fathom

Note in the previous command that you can leave off the .service portion of the service name. Finally, check the status of the service to make sure it’s running:

  1. sudo systemctl status fathom
● fathom.service - Fathom Analytics server Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/fathom.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled) Active: active (running) since Wed 2021-11-03 15:32:45 UTC; 13s ago Main PID: 3748 (fathom) Tasks: 5 (limit: 1136) Memory: 10.3M CGroup: /system.slice/fathom.service └─3748 /usr/local/bin/fathom server Nov 03 15:32:45 ubuntu-fathom systemd[1]: Started Fathom Analytics server. Nov 03 15:32:46 ubuntu-fathom fathom[3748]: time="2021-11-03T15:32:46Z" level=info msg="Fathom version 1.2.1, commit 8f> Nov 03 15:32:46 ubuntu-fathom fathom[3748]: time="2021-11-03T15:32:46Z" level=info msg="Configuration file: /opt/fathom> Nov 03 15:32:46 ubuntu-fathom fathom[3748]: time="2021-11-03T15:32:46Z" level=info msg="Connected to sqlite3 database: >

The service is up and running again on localhost port 8080. Next we’ll set up Nginx as a reverse proxy to expose the Fathom service to the outside world.

Step 4 — Installing and Configuring Nginx

Putting a web server such as Nginx in front of your application server can improve performance by offloading caching, compression, and static file serving to a more efficient process. We’re going to install Nginx and configure it to reverse proxy requests to Fathom, meaning it will take care of handing requests from your users to Fathom and back again.

First, refresh your package list, then install Nginx using apt:

  1. sudo apt update
  2. sudo apt install nginx

Allow public traffic to ports 80 and 443 (HTTP and HTTPS) using the “Nginx Full” UFW application profile:

  1. sudo ufw allow "Nginx Full"
Rule added Rule added (v6)

Next, open up a new Nginx configuration file in the /etc/nginx/sites-available directory. We’ll call ours fathom.conf but you could use a different name:

  1. sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/fathom.conf

Paste the following into the new configuration file, being sure to replace your_domain_here with the domain that you’ve configured to point to your Fathom server. This should be something like fathom.example.com, for instance:

server {
    listen       80;
    listen       [::]:80;
    server_name  your_domain_here;

    access_log  /var/log/nginx/fathom.access.log;
    error_log   /var/log/nginx/fathom.error.log;

    location / {
      proxy_pass http://localhost:8080;
      proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
      proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $remote_addr;
      proxy_set_header Host $host;

This configuration is HTTP-only for now. We’ll let Certbot take care of configuring SSL in the next step. The rest of the config sets up logging locations and then passes all traffic along to our Fathom server at http://localhost:8080, adding a few important proxy forwarding headers along the way.

Save and close the file, then enable the configuration by linking it into /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/:

  1. sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/fathom.conf /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/

Use nginx -t to verify that the configuration file syntax is correct:

  1. sudo nginx -t
nginx: the configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf syntax is ok nginx: configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf test is successful

And finally, reload the nginx service to pick up the new configuration:

  1. sudo systemctl reload nginx

Your Fathom site should now be available on plain HTTP. Load http://your_domain_here and it will look like this:

A screenshot of the Fathom login page, with 'Email' and 'Password' textboxes

Now that you have your site up and running over HTTP, it’s time to secure the connection with Certbot and Let’s Encrypt certificates.

Step 5 — Installing Certbot and Setting Up SSL Certificates

Thanks to Certbot and the Let’s Encrypt free certificate authority, adding SSL encryption to our Fathom app will take only two commands.

First, install Certbot and its Nginx plugin:

  1. sudo apt install certbot python3-certbot-nginx

Next, run certbot in --nginx mode, and specify the same domain you used in the Nginx server_name config:

  1. sudo certbot --nginx -d your_domain_here

You’ll be prompted to agree to the Let’s Encrypt terms of service, and to enter an email address.

Afterwards, you’ll be asked if you want to redirect all HTTP traffic to HTTPS. It’s up to you, but this is generally recommended and safe to do.

After that, Let’s Encrypt will confirm your request and Certbot will download your certificate:

Congratulations! You have successfully enabled https://Fathom.example.com You should test your configuration at: https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=Fathom.example.com - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - IMPORTANT NOTES: - Congratulations! Your certificate and chain have been saved at: /etc/letsencrypt/live/Fathom.example.com/fullchain.pem Your key file has been saved at: /etc/letsencrypt/live/Fathom.example.com/privkey.pem Your cert will expire on 2021-12-06. To obtain a new or tweaked version of this certificate in the future, simply run certbot again with the "certonly" option. To non-interactively renew *all* of your certificates, run "certbot renew" - Your account credentials have been saved in your Certbot configuration directory at /etc/letsencrypt. You should make a secure backup of this folder now. This configuration directory will also contain certificates and private keys obtained by Certbot so making regular backups of this folder is ideal. - If you like Certbot, please consider supporting our work by: Donating to ISRG / Let's Encrypt: https://letsencrypt.org/donate Donating to EFF: https://eff.org/donate-le

Certbot will automatically reload Nginx to pick up the new configuration and certificates. Reload your site and it should switch you over to HTTPS automatically if you chose the redirect option.

Your site is now secure and it’s safe to log in with the user details you set up in Step 2.

When you successfully log in, you’ll see a prompt to get your first website set up with Fathom:

A screenshot of the Fathom initial setup workflow, asking for the domain of your website

Once that is done you’ll see the (currently empty) dashboard for the site you just set up:

A screenshot of the Fathom dashboard, showing no data yet

You have successfully installed and secured your Fathom analytics software.


In this tutorial, you downloaded, installed, and configured the Fathom Analytics app, then set up an Nginx reverse proxy and secured it using Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates.

You’re now ready to finish setting up your website by adding the Fathom Analytics tracking script to it. Please see the official Fathom Analytics documentation for further information on using the software and setting up your site.

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