WebHookWebmention, as well as the legacy Pingback, provide a way of notifying a third party site that you have made some reference to something on their site. So, for example if I reference somebody elses blogpost in mine, that blog will be notified and my reference may appear as a comment on the post (unless they’re blogging on a passive aggressive silo like Google+ or Facebook, or their blog uses Disqus, which is, in many ways I won’t go into now, the suck).

Pingbacks, and increasingly Webmention, are supported by most major web frameworks and blogging platforms, but adding them to a home rolled platform can be a little bit of a faff, especially if these platforms are build on static HTML.

So, inspired by Pingback.me written by Aaron Parecki, I wrote a bit of middleware that can be installed on a web server with minimal fuss, and can provide pingback/webmention services to other sites.

The reason I didn’t use Pingback.me was that I needed something quickly, I had reasons why I didn’t want to install an entire Ruby stack, and I needed the webhook functionality for a couple of projects (including some funky node.js dataset regeneration to tackle some scalability challenges, but that’s a different story).


One of the main requirements for pingback2hook was ease of setup, which I hope I’ve achieved.

  1. Start by checking out the source code from the github repo here, and place this on your web server.
  2. You’ll need to have PHP 5.3 running with mod-rewrite, and also CouchDB (to store pings), which on Debian systems, should be a fairly straightforward setup.

    apt-get install apache2 libapache2-mod-php5 couchdb; a2enmod rewrite

  3. If you’re running pingback2hook on its own subdomain, you should be up and running, but if you’re installing to a subdirectory of your site you’ll need to modify the RewriteBase in .htaccess.

Enabling pingback and webmentions on your site

Once you’ve got the software up and running somewhere, you can then start enabling pingback support in your sites. This is a two step process:

  1. On the pingback2hook server, define an endpoint for your site in a .ini file. This file will define the endpoint label, a secret key for communicating with the API, and zero or more webhook endpoints to ping. E.g.

    secret = "flkjlskjefsliduji4es4iutsiud"

    ; Zero or more webhook endpoints
    webhooks[] = "http://updates.mysite.com"
    webhooks[] = "http://data.mysite.com"

  2. On your website, declare the necessary hooks in your metadata, either by headers:

    // Webmention
    header('Link: <http://pingback2hook.myserver.com/webmention/myendpoint/>; rel="http://webmention.org/"');

    // Pingback
    header('X-Pingback: http://pingback2hook.myserver.com/pingback/myendpoint/xmlrpc');

    And/or in the header metadata…

            <link href="http://pingback2hook.myserver.com/webmention/myendpoint/" rel="http://webmention.org/" />
            <link rel="pingback" href="http://pingback2hook.myserver.com/pingback/myendpoint/xmlrpc" />

Once set up, you will get an entry in the database for every pingback or webmention a given permalink receives. If you’ve defined some webhooks, these will be pinged in turn with the JSON content of the ping.

Viewing your pingbacks

To view your pingbacks you can either make a direct query of the couch database (default: pingback2hook), or make use of the API.

Currently, you can query the API via its endpoint at https://pingback2hook.myserver.com/api/myendpoint/command.format, passing any required parameters on the GET line.

At the time of writing only one command is supported, but I’ll add more as I have need to:

Command Parameters Details
latest.json|jsonp target_url, limit (optional), offset (optional) Retrieve the latest pings or webmentions for a given permalink url.

To make the query, you need to authenticate yourself. This is done very simply by passing the ‘secret’ for the endpoint in your request header as X-PINGBACK2HOOK-SECRET: mysecret. This is very basic security, and your code is being sent in the clear, so it goes without saying that you should ONLY make queries to the API via HTTPS!

Have a play, and let me know what you think!

» Visit the project on Github…

WebMention is a modern re-implementation of PingBack, which uses only HTTP and x-www-urlencoded content rather than infinitely more complicated, not to mention bloated, XMLRPC requests. It was developed by the #indieweb community at IndieWebCamp, and is rapidly seeing adoption.

Since the best way to understand a protocol is to write an implementation of it, I bashed together a basic implementation of it for Elgg.

The plugin will automatically send webmention pings for content with URLs in the $object->description field (you can easily expand on this), it also exposes a webmention endpoint, and sets the appropriate discovery headers and meta tags. Plugin authors can hook into the plugin hooks that elgg-webmention generates and handle incoming mentions appropriately.

There is still a little more to do, the next step I think is to hook into a microformats parser, in order to get some richer semantic information as to the type of mention one is generating. My friend Ben has a very neat video of this kind of thing in action, and his idno project already implements it in the core code.

Have a play!

» Visit the project on Github…