The other day I sketched out some notes on how friend/follow and subscribe might work in a distributed social network such as Idno (I have since hacked together some plugins based on those notes).

So, I thought I’d sketch up some thoughts on how private and friend only posts might work in a distributed social network:

Outline specification

  • On account creation (or if there isn’t a key present) a key pair is generated, this key pair is used to identify a user’s profile to that user’s friends.
    • I’m not sure exactly what kind of key this should be at this point, although I’m leaning towards a PGP key pair, although OpenSSL has its merits (of course, there is no reason why we can’t use multiple technologies).
    • We’ll probably have to have the private key stored on the server for the purposes of signing, although there’s no reason why these have to be your main keys.
  • When Alice follows Bob, as described in my previous post, they both pull the public keys from each other’s profile as part of that exchange, which have been marked up using Microformats 2. Any keys found are saved against the record of that user.
    • For security, we probably want to do some sort of key validation here; perhaps key fingerprint, or perhaps better some web of trust based on mutual friends…
    • How key revocation might work is an open question, but I think the easiest way might be for Alice to send another subscription request to Bob, and have that re-trigger this process, rather than (as happens at the moment), returning an error that Alice is already subscribed to Bob.
  • When Bob writes a friends only post he lists Alice’s profile UUID in a list of people who can view the post, then ping’s Alice’s endpoint.
  • When Alice visits Bob, or Alice’s site visits Bob’s permalink, it identifies itself by signing the request using her key. If the signature is valid and belongs to a key for a user for which Bob has allowed access to the permalink, the data is displayed, otherwise a HTTP 403 code is returned.

Just some rough thoughts for now, let me know your thoughts!

The ability to follow your friends, and receive notifications when they post new activity, is a vital part of what makes a social network – well – social.

With a distributed social platform like idno, this presents a bit of a problem.

In a previous post, I mooted a specification that would allow for distributed friend/follow/notification on Idno, and any indieweb platform that chooses to support the protocol.

Since it’s always a good thing to have a reference implementation for these things, I put together a couple of plugins that implement the spec. The first, Subscribe, provides the basic engine – the protocol endpoint, together with a subscriber and subscription list page. The second, SubscriptionNotification, provides a visual notification mechanism, via a popup label, and a summary page.

This is highly experimental, and is subject to change as we flesh out the mechanism, but I think it’s a good start.

» Subscribe plugin…
» SubscriptionNotification plugin…