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diaspora* federation library

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The goal of this gem is to provide a library of reusable code for the purpose of implementing the protocols used around Diaspora. This covers user discovery utilizing the XRD, HostMeta, WebFinger and hCard standards as well as the message passing implementation using a subset of the Salmon protocol.

One of the main ideas behind this lib was to avoid any dependencies toward a specific web framework. This means any app using this gem is free to set up HTTP routing and database infrastructure any way it sees fit, as long as the few required routes are handled to specification.

User discovery

When Diaspora attempts to discover a remote user account, the server name is extracted from the account handle: "user@server.example" => "server.example" Next, a GET request is sent to the servers host-meta route https://server.example/.well-known/host-meta which returns an XRD document with the application/xrd+xml media type. The contained Link element with rel="lrdd" inside the {DiasporaFederation::WebFinger::HostMeta HostMeta} document contains a template URL in its template attribute. It will be used for querying the WebFinger document.

Example: HostMeta request

GET /.well-known/host-meta HTTP/1.1

Example: HostMeta response

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: application/xrd+xml

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<XRD xmlns="">
  <Link rel="lrdd" type="application/xrd+xml" template="https://server.example/webfinger?q={uri}"/>

To retrieve the {DiasporaFederation::WebFinger::WebFinger WebFinger} document, the placeholder {uri} in the template has to be replaced by the acct URI of the account to look up: https://server.example/webfinger?q=acct:user@server.example Now this URL can be used in a GET request to fetch the WebFinger document, which also consists of an XRD document served with the application/xrd+xml media type. The document already contains some basic information associated with the queried user account. More specific profile details are in the referenced hCard document. The URL is contained in the href attribute of the Link element with rel=""

Example: WebFinger request

GET /webfinger?q=acct:user@server.example HTTP/1.1

Example: WebFinger response

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: application/xrd+xml

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<XRD xmlns="">
  <Link rel="" type="text/html" href="https://server.example/hcard/users/user"/>
  <Link rel="" type="text/html" href="https://server.example/"/>
  <Link rel="" type="text/html" href="0123456789abcdef"/>
  <Link rel="" type="text/html" href="https://server.example/u/user"/>
  <Link rel="" type="application/atom+xml" href="https://server.example/public/user.atom"/>
  <Link rel="diaspora-public-key" type="RSA" href="ABCDEF=="/>

The {DiasporaFederation::WebFinger::HCard hCard} document can be accessed by issuing a GET request to the hCard URL extracted from the WebFinger document. It will return a simple HTML page with the text/html media type, containing the public profile information of the queried user, marked up as specified in the hCard microformat standard (using class attributes on the elements, thereby giving them semantic meaning).

Example: hCard request

GET /hcard/users/user HTTP/1.1

Example: hCard response

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "">
<html xmlns="">

All of the described documents can be generated and parsed by classes shipped with this gem. You can find them in the {DiasporaFederation::WebFinger} module. See the included documentation for specifics on how to use them.

Message passing

Messages are transmitted among Diaspora servers using the push principle. In almost all cases, user interactions cause federation messages to be created, which need to be sent to remote servers. For communication between servers, an encrypted transport (HTTPS) is mandatory.

The various message payloads reflect the user actions as XML objects. Before these are passed to remote systems they need to be enveloped in so-called {DiasporaFederation::Salmon::Slap Salmon XML Slaps}, which contain a signature to verify the authorship of any given user action and also provide the means for encryption of private contents.

Unencrypted message variants are meant to be delivered to "the receiving server" (in contrast to delivery to a specific user). They contain information which is meant to be processed as public, and need no further asymmetric encryption (in addition to the established transport encryption).

All other messages are enveloped in {DiasporaFederation::Salmon::EncryptedSlap encrypted Salmon Slaps} using the recipients public RSA key. During delivery to remote servers, a specific route is used for posting the messages to directly indicate the recipient.

Example: public message request

POST /receive/public HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: Diaspora w.x.y.z -
Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded


Example: private message request

POST /receive/users/[GUID] HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: Diaspora w.x.y.z -
Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded


Note the different route in comparison with the public message. It contains the recipient GUID to immediately tell the receiving server which user to deliver the message to, thus determining which private key to use for decryption.

If the server implementation decides that the received message can be accepted, the response should indicate that by returning a 2xx HTTP status code.

Example: public/private message response

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Status: 200 OK

A status code in the 3xx range indicates a redirect and a given URL in the Location header field should be followed. 4xx and 5xx status codes are errors and the server implementation may choose to retry the request to the destination at a later time.


This gem is published under the terms of the Expat License also called "MIT License". See the LICENSE file for the exact wording.