I have been asked to make some simple modification to a web page for a client. They already have a website from a previous web designer and want to give the website to me as he has quit.

The old web designer asked me for my 'root.'

What does he mean?

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    The old web designer wants your login details - don't give them to him at all as he's quit. – user9517 Nov 19 '13 at 11:48
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    You should consider being more upfront with you clients. This isn't really the place for this sort of question and in any case you've shown zero research or effort. – Drew Khoury Nov 19 '13 at 12:01
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    The question is both relevant and as well phrased as can be, given all the different meanings 'root' gets in a professional web developing/hosting environment, see below answer. – ErikE Nov 19 '13 at 12:24

That is a very intelligent question and a clear cut source of confusion when ops and devs talk. It means different things depending on context, and especially so in a web hosting context.

root can as far as I know officially mean at least:

  • the system full access privileges user.
  • the file system base directory, a.k.a. /
  • the web server shared file system base directory from which a web site is served, a.k.a. web-root.
  • the first slash after the hostname in a web url address, a.k.a. the uri root.
  • the shared script path common to several sites or uri:s within a site, a.k.a script path, root-link, web-root relative link, root-relative link.

The last two are usually not referred to in documentation and reference material written for sysadmins, a fact which adds relevance to the question.

I have heard each of these being referred to as 'the root' at some time or other, by some professional and highly skilled web developer or other. This has been eye opening as I read a lot and thought I had the 'root' term well defined. It is thus easy to misinterpret the real intention, due to differing terminology both between ops and devs but also between different subroles of devs (as is my impression).

I wouldn´t be surprised if there are a good number of other meanings, both valid and misconstrued, in addition to these.

So your task is figuring out what on earth your dev is referring to, which is not always easy :-)

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If he quit, he should not have asked your for anything at all but simple give you the login credentials for the server (which you should change right after you get them).

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This is not one of the normal usages of the term "root". I can only imagine that perhaps ssh password logins are disabled on the server and he's asking you for your public ssh key to add to the root ssh-keys on the server.

I'd suggest you ask him again if it's an ssh key he wants. If yes, here's how you can create one:


Make sure you only send him the public key.

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  • Thank you for your help, but I'm a bit confused what on earth is SSH. I've looked at your link, but this looks like its for Linux and I'm on Windows. What should I do? – Yahya Uddin Nov 19 '13 at 11:33
  • If it's a server you're going to administer in the future, you should get some knowledge about ssh and Linux systems, otherwise you will be in serious trouble ;) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secure_Shell should give you some more information. A well-known ssh client for Windows is Putty. If you're only expected to upload and edit some web pages and shouldn't mess around with the server, you won't have to care about this, in this case you should only ask for an FTP login. – etagenklo Nov 19 '13 at 11:40
  • Yeah I'm just editing some web pages and not messing around with the web server it self. Thank you for your help. – Yahya Uddin Nov 19 '13 at 11:44

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