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Express ActivityPub Server

A very simple standalone ActivityPub server that supports:

  • creation of new Actors via API
  • discovery of our Actors via webfinger (so you can find these accounts from other instances)
  • notifying followers of new posts (so new posts show up in their timeline)

This is meant as a reference implementation! This code implements a very small subset of ActivityPub and is supposed to help you get your bearings when it comes to making your own barebones ActivityPub support in your own projects. (Of course you can still fork this and start building on it as well, but it's not exactly hardened production code.)

Example use case: I own I can have this server run on All of my bots are stored and published and discoverable there. If I want to create a new bot, I go to and enter an account name, enter my admin user/pass on prompt, and it creates an account record and it gives me back an API key. I then make POST calls to the API passing the API key in a header and it publishes those things to followers.


This requires Node.js v10.10.0 or above.


Clone the repository, then cd into its root directory. Install dependencies:

npm i

Copy config-template.json to config.json.

cp config-template.json config.json

Update your config.json file:

  "USER": "pickAUsername",
  "PASS": "pickAPassword",
  "DOMAIN": "", // your domain! this should be a discoverable domain of some kind like ""
  "PORT": "3000", // the port that Express runs on
  "PRIVKEY_PATH": "/path/to/your/ssl/privkey.pem", // point this to your private key you got from Certbot or similar
  "CERT_PATH": "/path/to/your/ssl/cert.pem" // point this to your cert you got from Certbot or similar

Run the server!

node index.js

Go to the admin page and create an account:

Enter "test" in the "Create Account" section and hit the "Create Account" button. It will prompt you for the user/pass you just set in your config file, and then you should get a message with some verification instructions, pointing you to some URLs that should be serving some ActivityPub JSON now.

Local testing

You can use a service like ngrok to test things out before you deploy on a real server. All you need to do is install ngrok and run ngrok http 3000 (or whatever port you're using if you changed it). Then go to your config.json and update the DOMAIN field to whatever domain that ngrok gives you and restart your server. For local testing you do not need to specify PRIVKEY_PATH or CERT_PARTH.

Admin Page

For your convenience, if you go to the /admin endpoint in a browser, you will see an admin page. Don't worry, nothing is possible here unless either your admin user/pass (for creating accounts) or a valid API key (for sending messages as an account). This page provides a simple web form for both creating accounts and sending messages to followers.


Create Account

Create a new account. This is a new ActivityPub Actor, along with its webfinger record. This creates a new row in the accounts table in the database.

Send a POST to /api/admin/create using basic HTTP auth with the admin username/password. The form body needs an "account" field. An example CURL request:

curl -u adminUsername:adminPassword -d "account=test" -H "Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded" -X POST

This will return a 200 status and {msg: "ok", apikey: "yourapikey"} if all goes well.

Send Message to Followers

Send a message to followers. This is NOT a direct message or an @-mention. This simply means that the message you post via this endpoint will appear in the timelines (AKA inboxes) of every one of the account's followers.

Send a POST to api/sendMessage with the form fields acct, apikey, and message.

  • acct: the account name in the form "myAccountName" (no domain or @'s needed)
  • apikey: your hex API key
  • message: the message you want to send -- for Mastodon-compatible posts this might be plain text or simple HTML, but ActivityPub is a lot more flexible than just Mastodon! In theory, according to the ActivityPub spec it can be any ActivityStreams object


This server uses a SQLite database to keep track of all the data. There is one table in the database: accounts.


This table keeps track of all the data needed for the accounts. Columns:

  • name TEXT PRIMARY KEY: the account name, in the form
  • privkey TEXT: the RSA private key for the account
  • pubkey TEXT: the RSA public key for the account
  • webfinger TEXT: the entire contents of the webfinger JSON served for this account
  • actor TEXT: the entire contents of the actor JSON served for this account
  • apikey TEXT: the API key associated with this account
  • followers TEXT: a JSON-formatted array of the URL for the Actor JSON of all followers, in the form ["https://remote.server/users/somePerson", "https://another.remote.server/ourUsers/anotherPerson"]
  • messages TEXT: not yet used but will eventually store all messages so we can render them on a "profile" page


This table holds all messages sent by the server, which are served at the url /m/some-id-number/.

  • guid TEXT PRIMARY KEY: an id for the message
  • message TEXT: a JSON object encoding the full message


Copyright (c) 2018 Darius Kazemi. Licensed under the MIT license.


A very simple reference implementation of an ActivityPub server using Express.js







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