Sunday, June 09, 2013

Really Simple Social Blogging

A proposal to implement a decentralized Tumblr/Facebook/Twitter like social blogging platform using simple things like WebMention and Microformats. This is based on some experiments I'm doing with Converspace on and was inspired by The First Federated #Indieweb Comment Thread.

Based on usage, it looks like I primarily do 4 things on
  1. Post original content. This could be text (both short and long form), links, photos, videos, quotes, etc. (
  2. Repost content from others I find interesting. (
  3. Comment on content from others. (
  4. Like content from others. (

Turns out this is also broadly what you do on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook:
  • Tumblr: blog, reblog, comment and like.
  • Twitter: tweet, retweet, reply and favorite.
  • Facebook: update status, share, comment and like.

So I set out to see how this could be done in a decentralized way across the #indieweb. A couple of experiments later, I think I have a simple solution for achieving this, using nothing more than simple things like WebMention and Microformats.

The "social" part of this is letting others know that you have done one of those 4 things listed above and especially the person whose content you've reposted, liked or commented on.

This is where WebMention comes. It's a simple way to let any URL on the web know that  you've linked to it on your site. The problem however is communicating the context in which the URL was mentioned:
  • Was it just mentioned in passing along with other content?
  • Was it's content reposted?
  • Was it liked?
  • Was it linked to by someone commenting on it?

Taking a cue from the the experimental u-in-reply-to microformat, I'm using the following experimental classnames for links within h-entry:

A target URL that receives a WebMention can retrieve the source URLs HTML content and look for the above Microformat classnames to figure out the context in which it was mentioned along with an h-card/p-author entry to figure out the person involved.

The target can then show:
  • Total number of likes along with the details of the people that liked it.
  • Total number of reposts along with the details of the people that reposted it.
  • Total number of mentions along with the URLs of the sites that mentioned it.
  • Comments along with the details of the people that commented on it.
See this in action here: Indieweb Federated "Likes".

An important part that is missing from the above is letting other people easily follow you and get updates when you post something on your site. A microformats based feed reader should solve that. Following someone also gives you the opportunity to send a WebMention to the profile URL of the person you followed which in turn allows that person to show a Follower count (using u-follow maybe) along with the details of the followers. I've yet to explore this but will be posting more details when I get to it and dogfood it.

Wishlist: A microformats search engine that crawls the web looking for microformats, especially h-card so I can search for people just like I can on silo social networks.

Here are some additional experimental classnames I'm considering but not yet using:
  • u-quote to be used when you quote text from a URL verbatim.
  • u-follow to be used when you follow/subscribe to a URL (usually a person)


  • A way to undo WebMentions (e.g., unlike) by deleting the source URL and sending a WebMention for which the target would receive a 404 in turn deleting the original WebMention. 
  • I'm also hoping to extend WebMention to allow for private access to URLs to only the people that were sent a WebMention.


08 June, 2013
  • Added h-card search wishlist.
09 June, 2013
  • Added attribution to the @eschnou's indieweb comment thread that was the first instance I know of that combined something like WebMention (Pingback) and Microformats to figure out context. It went beyond the simple rel="in-reply-to" suggestion made in WebMention and read h-cards.
  • Added note about sending WebMentions to user profile URLs. (rememberd to add this thanks to this tweet by @benwerd)
  • Added note about private access. (rememberd to add this thanks to this tweet by @benwerd)
  • Added list of other experimental classnames I'm considering.
10 June 2013
  • Created the Todo section and added note about undoing WebMentions.

See Also


Julien said...

Following is an imortant part of blogging/Tumblr :) Please make sure you have feeds that people can follow too and add a button!

Sandeep Shetty said...

@Julien: For sure :)