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ActivityPub federation in Smithereen

Here are the non-standard additions to ActivityPub that Smithereen uses in order to federate between servers.

The sm: JSON-LD namespace is short for; in relevant objects, any custom fields within that namespace are aliased in @context and thus appear throughout the object without any namespace.

Wall posts

People can post on other people's walls. Wall posts are part of the sm:wall collection, as per FEP-400e. Addressing must include as:Public and the wall owner.

Example object:

  "@context": [
      "sensitive": "as:sensitive"
  "type": "Note",
  "id": "http://smithereen.local:8080/posts/110",
  "url": "http://smithereen.local:8080/posts/110",
  "to": [],
  "cc": [
  "target": {
    "id": "http://smithereen.local:8080/users/4/wall",
    "attributedTo": "http://smithereen.local:8080/users/4",
    "type": "Collection"
  "replies": {
    "id": "http://smithereen.local:8080/posts/110/replies",
    "type": "Collection",
    "first": {
      "next": "http://smithereen.local:8080/posts/110/replies?page=1",
      "partOf": "http://smithereen.local:8080/posts/110/replies",
      "type": "CollectionPage"
  "attributedTo": "http://smithereen.local:8080/users/1",
  "published": "2020-05-21T19:05:00Z",
  "sensitive": false,
  "content": "<p>Test.<\/p>"

TODO: capability negotiation

A note about comments

Since this is modelled after VK, comments aren't supposed to appear in newsfeeds by themselves; they only exist in the context of a top-level post. Thus, comments aren't addressed to anyone's followers. They're addressed to as:Public, the top-level post author, the parent comment author, and mentioned users, if any.

Friends and Followers

Any bilateral followings are considered friends. Even though all followers are accepted automatically, Accept{Follow} is expected from remote servers. Actors from servers running software that allows manually reviewing and accepting followers, e.g. Mastodon, are supported.

Friend requests

Friend requests are sent as Offer{Follow} activities, where the inner Follow activity is as if the friend request recepient is following its sender. Semantically, this is "I'm asking you to follow me back". In order for Smithereen to allow sending a friend request to a remote actor, that actor must have sm:supportsFriendRequests field set to true. A friend request may have a text message attached to it in content of the Offer.

Accepting a friend request is done by following the sender back, that is, simply sending a Follow.

Rejecting a friend request is done by sending a Reject{Offer{Follow}} activity.

Additional profile fields

There are separate fields for first and last names, birth date, and gender, all based on Those are firstName, lastName, birthDate and gender. firstName and lastName are respectively aliases to givenName and familyName. Birth date is in the format YYYY-MM-DD. Gender can either be sc:Male or sc:Female.

Non-square profile pictures

Smithereen uses non-square profile pictures on the profile page. In order to retain compatibility with everything else, icon in the actor still points to a square picture. It's extended with the image field that contains the full rectangular one, and sm:cropRegion with the coordinates of the square version within the rectangular one. The coordinates are in the order [x1, y1, x2, y2], where (x1, y1) are the top-left corner of the square, and (x2, y2) are the bottom-right. The top-left corner of the rectangle is (0, 0), and the bottom-right one is (1, 1).


  "icon": {
    "type": "Image",
    "url": "http://smithereen.local:8080/s/uploads/avatars/a502dd6ba23da7a899526368b9b58896_xl.jpg",
    "width": 400,
    "height": 400,
    "image": {
      "type": "Image",
      "url": "http://smithereen.local:8080/s/uploads/avatars/a502dd6ba23da7a899526368b9b58896_rxl.jpg",
      "width": 400,
      "height": 565
    "cropRegion": [


Groups are like users, except they can't follow anything. Groups have walls that work the same way as user walls. Both Join and Follow activities work for joining groups, as well as Leave and Undo{Follow} for leaving. Outgoing activities are Follow and Undo{Follow} in order to maximize the compatibility.

Groups have administrators that are listed in the attributedTo field:

  "attributedTo": [
      "type": "Person",
      "title": "Group admins can have user-visible titles",
      "id": "http://smithereen.local:8080/users/1"

These links must point to a Person object and will be ignored otherwise.

Any actions of the group administrators are federated as if the group actor itself performed them.