Skip to content

A new ssb invite system to create invites without having a pub


Notifications You must be signed in to change notification settings


Folders and files

Last commit message
Last commit date

Latest commit


Repository files navigation


when ssb was younger, we created the current invite system, henceforth in this document referred to as the "followbot" system. special peers called "pubs" can create tokens called "invite codes". The invite code allows a new person to connect to the pub, and request a follow.

This generally worked fairly well, but had some problems:

  • not clear who invited who.
  • people were confused about what a "pub" was
  • sometimes pubs failed to follow back.
  • some pubs more inviting than others "too open"
  • hard to tell if growth was word of mouth or not


With peer invites, you can create invites without having a pub. However, your local sbot needs to support peer invites. that requires installing the following, if you havn't already:

sbot plugins.install ssb-device-address
sbot plugins.install ssb-identities
sbot plugins.install ssb-peer-invites

with peer invites, you do not need to have your own pub server, as long as you have a friend has one (that supports peer-invites). To enable peer-invites on your pub, install the same modules and restart, and also announce a public address using ssb-device-address

then restart your sbot local server, there will be a bit of index building, then you can create invites!

>sbot peerInvites.create --private 'message for receiver' --reveal 'will be public'

send invite_code to your friend and they can use

>sbot peerInvites.openInvite {invite_code}
{ private:..., reveal:...}

This shows what you have been invited to. This can contain a welcome message, or access to private groups (TODO). The private section is only readable by the guest, but the reveal section is made public once the guest accepts the invite.

then, to actually accept the invite, they do:

>sbot peerInvites.acceptInvite {invite_code}

peer invites - how it works

host (peer creating the invite) generates a seed, and publishes an invitation message (type:'peer-invite') for their guest (new peer, receiving the invite) The message may contain both a private and a reveal section (private section is only readable by the guest, but reveal is published if the guest accepts the invite).

The host then checks for peers that have a public address and follow them. The host provides the guest with the seed the invite message id, and a short list of pub addresses that may process the invite.

The guest accepting the invite is a two step process. First they use the seed and the pub addresses to connect to a pub and request the invite message. Here they may read a private message from their host, as well as see what will be revealed once they accept. If they accept, they publish a accept message on their own feed (type: 'peer-invite/accept'), and then pass that to the pub, who then publishes a confirm message (type: peer-invite/confirm'). Now peers who replicate the pub's feed can see the guest has arrived.

invite format

the invite format is as follows:


This can be parsed using require('ssb-peer-invites/util').parse

  • seed is the private key that will be used to accept the invite, anyone who knows this can accept the invite, so do not share it publicaly.
  • invite_msg_id this is the id of the invite message. The guest requests this from the pub they connect to.
  • cap is the (optional) network cap for this invite.
  • multiserver_address one or more pub addresses


peerInvites.create({id?, public?, reveal?, hops?, pubs?, allowWithoutPubs?}, cb(err, invite))

does everything needed to create an invite. generates a seed, finds pubs to act as introducers, and publishes an invite message.

id is the host id to invite from. (optional, will use your default id if not provided). private and reveal are information that is encrypted into the invite, except that private is read only by the guest, but the key to reveal is published as the guest accepts the invite. (so it's eventually read by everyone, but only if the guest accepts the invite)

peer-invites have a lot more accountability than the previous followbot system. You can see who invited who. (so if someone invites an asshole, the community can see who did that, but the host will already know that, so they'll think twice, or caution their friend to not be a jerk) reveal can be used to enhance this. It could for example - be used to assign someone a name before they are invited.

private can be used for the benefit of the guest. it may contain a welcome message or links to threads or channels, or peers to follow.

on success, cb is called with an invite string, this should be passed to the guest, who uses it with openInvite and acceptInvite

If allowWithoutPubs is set, the invite will be created without finding any pubs. Instead specific pubs can be provided as an array of multiserver addresses.

peerInvites.openInvite(invite, cb(err, data))

"open" an invite. retrives the invite message created by the host (using peerInvites.create) and decrypt any encrypted values. since the invite may contain a welcome message, etc, peer interfaces implementing peer interfaces should process peer-invites in two steps. firstly opening the invite, then accepting (on peer confirmation)

calling openInvite will not publish a message, but may make a network connection (if you do not already possess the invite_msg which you won't the first time)

then if the invite validated, the data argument is provided.

data = {
  key: invite_id, //id of the invite message
  value: invite_msg, //the raw invite message itself
  opened: {
    private: ..., //private message from host (may be null)
    reveal: ... //message to be revealed from host (may be null)

peerInvites.acceptInvite(invite, cb)

accept the invite. this publishes a peer-invite/accept message locally, and then contacts a pub and asks them publish a peer-invite/confirm message.

peerInvites.getNearbyPubs(opts, cb)

Get a list of nearby pubs, that may act as introducer to onboard the guest. to support peer-invites pubs must be running ssb-device-address and ssb-peer-invites, and be enough within your hop distance that they are happy to replicate someone you've invited. create uses this method internally, but it is provided for debugging purposes.

supported options:

  • hops set the max hops of pubs to try. (defaults to 3
  • min connect to pubs until you've found at least this many who will replicate.

The format of the result is:

  id: <pub_id>,
  address: <multiserver_address>,
  availability: <0-1>,
  hops: N, //how far away they are
  error: <null|message>, //if the connection failed
  willReplicate: boolean, //true if they can handle this invite!

results are sorted by wether they will replicate, and then by availability.


Alice wishes to invite Bob to her corner of the ssb network. But she is does not have a pub server. She creates a peer invite, indicating that she is creating an invite. This is just a message on her feed.

var seed = random(32) //32 bytes of randomness
var invite_key = ssbKeys.generate(null, seed)
var invite_cap = require('ssb-config').caps.invite

    type: 'peer-invite',

    //optional fields
    reveal: box(message_to_be_revealed, hash(hash(seed))),
    private: box(message_for_bob, hash(seed))
  }, invite_cap, invite_key),
  function (err, invite_msg) {

reveal and private are optional, and will be discussed later.

also note, the the invite is self-signed, to proove that alice created the invite code, and so that no one else can claim they invited alice's friend. The signature has an invite_cap so that it cannot be confused with another type of signature.

Alice encodes the seed, the invite message id, and the addresses of some pubs that are likely to replicate bob. this is called the "invite code"

she then gives the invite code to bob via a channel she already trusts, say, a 1:1 chat app.

bob then connects to one of the pubs in the invite code, using the seed to derive a private key. (which the pub will recognise as alice's guest id)

bob then requests the invite message id, and probably alice's feed. if the invite has reveal and public fields, bob decrypts them by hashing the seed.

If bob accepts the invite, bob then creates an "peer-invite/accept" message, which is a proof that he has the seed, and knows who's invite he is accepting, and indicates the long term key he will be using. At this point, he can forget the seed.

var invite_key = ssbKeys.generate(null, seed)
var invite_cap = require('ssb-config').caps.invite

    type: 'peer-invite/accept',
    receipt: getId(invite_msg), //the id of the invite message
    id:, //the id we are accepting this invite as.
    //if the invite has a reveal, key must be included.
    key: hash(hash(seed))
  }, invite_cap, invite_key),
  function (err, invite_accept_msg) {

This is then passed to the pub, who verifies it, and if is correct, posts a confirm message.

    type: 'peer-invite/confirm',
    embed: invite_accept_msg //embed the whole message.
  }, function (err, invite_confirm_msg) {

the pub just reposts the whole invite_accept message that bob created. this makes the message available for other peers to validate, since they do not follow bob yet.

The pub now knows that bob and alice are friends, and will start replicating bob. Other friends of alice who replicate the pub will also see this, and they will also start replicating bob. Thus alice's friends can welcome bob, knowing it's a friend of alice, even if alice is offline.

reveal & private

There are two optional encrypted fields on an invite. reveal and private. The private field contains a private message from the host that the guest reads when accepting the invite. The private field is intended to hold a private welcome message from the host. The reveal feed is more interesting. To accept the invite, the guest must provide the decryption key to the reveal field, otherwise their accept message is ignored. The reveal field is intended to hold a message from the host to their other peers, it's about their guest, but it's for their other friends. "hey everyone, this is bob, he's really awesome at growing mushrooms!" Most importantly, this message can be used to assign a name for bob. Also importantly, the reveal message is secret until bob accepts the invite. This avoids revealing anything about bob without his consent (he may choose not to accept the invite if he disagrees with what alice says about him)


because the trick here is two keys are associated, some particular techniques are used.

double signatures

notice a pattern with two keys and two signatures, the inner, short term key, signs the outer long term public key, and then the outer, long term key, signs the signed message of the short term key.

sign(sign({message, long_term.public}, short_term), long_term)

A key point here is that the inner signs the public key of the outer. Otherwise another party could just replay the inner portion, but by signing the long term key (and checking this when validating, this is prevented).

signing capability

the inner signatures uses ssbKeys.signObj(key, hmac_key?, obj) with an hmac_key provided. The purpose of this is to ensure that this signature can never be confused with a signature used for other purposes (such as ordinary message signing).


published by the host when creating the invite.

  previous: ...,
  author: host_longterm_id,
  ... //other required message fields
  content {
    type: 'peer-invite',
    host: author_id,  // author of this message.
    invite: guest_temp_id, // public key guest will use to authenticate
    reveal: boxed,    // encrypted message to be revealed (optional)
    private: boxed,   // encrypted message for guest only (optional)
    signature: inner_sig, //signed by `guest_temp_id`, to prove that `author` held that.
  signature: sig //signed by author.


published by guest when accepting the above invite.

  previous: ...,
  author: guest_long_term_id,
  ... //other required fields,
  content: {
    type: 'peer-invite/accept',
    receipt: invite_id,     // the id of the invite message (which is being accepted).
    id: guest_long_term_id, // the real identity which the guest will use now.
    key: hash(seed),        // key used to encrypt the `reveal` field. required if reveal was present.
                            // if the guest does not wish to reveal that info, they should ask
                            // their host to create another invite.
    signature: inner_sig    // signed by guest_temp_id, to prove that guest_long_term_id held that.
  signature: outer_sig

a double signature is used as with the peer-invite message.


published by a pub, when observing an invite accept message. it just embeds the accept_message.

  type: 'peer-invite/confirm',
  embed: accept_message




A new ssb invite system to create invites without having a pub



Code of conduct





No packages published