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Re: [Social-discuss] GNU-social features

From: Adam Moore
Subject: Re: [Social-discuss] GNU-social features
Date: Fri, 03 Jul 2015 00:04:11 -0700
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Wouter Miltenburg <address@hidden> writes:
I am a student and currently doing research in decentralised social
networks. For my research I've some questions about GNU social and I
hope the mailing list is the appropriate place for these questions.

This reply is probably too late to be of use in whatever project you
were working on, but I thought it was worthwhile to try and provide
answers for some of the questions you've raised.

The most important question about GNU-social is its current status. On
Wikipedia it is noted that 1.1.2 is still an Alpha release and that
1.1.1 is the stable release. Let's assume that 1.1.1 is the current
stable release and 1.1.2 is the "future" of GNU social.=20

The information on Wikipedia is not up-to-date.  To find out what the
current "stable" version of GNU social is, check the README in the
project's source repository:

What will be the aim for GNU-social and how is privacy dealt with?
With other implementations like Friendica/RedMatrix effort was put in
the privacy of the users. That's why I was wondering what GNU-social
will provide for it's users. Will private/direct messages be encrypted
in some form (or do we rely on SSL/TLS if supported by the other end)?

GNU social is currently being developed as a PUBLIC microblogging
platform.  The current direct messaging feature is a remnant from the
StatusNet software that GNU social has been developed from, and only
works with users who share the same node (so it's pretty private, as
the message is never transmitted over the network).  Federated direct
messaging is not a current priority for developers, I believe.

For secure direct messaging, there are lots of tools/systems already
available, and there's no need for GNU social to try and replace them.
If you want people to send you direct messages, you can put a bitmessage
address, XMPP account, email address with PGP keyID, or whatever else
you like to use in your profile bio.

Will there be more advancements in federation support between different
nodes? As far as I can see you can only message someone directly, from
another node, when he/she is added to a group. Couldn't find the option
to directly post to someone's "wall" when I visited his/her profile.
More like the idea how Friendica/RedMatrix support seamless "roaming" of
the profiles across nodes.

The "wall" analogy doesn't quite apply in GNU social.  You can "mention"
users in messages using Twitter-style "@" syntax: if the user's account
is on the same node as yours, you can simply put "@username" in your
message; if the user's account is on another node, you can use
"@address@hidden" to make sure it gets to their server.  These mentions will
appear on a user's Mentions page (on older versions, this is called the
Replies page).

What kind of advancements will be made to the user's profile? Will
support be added to share your photos and conveniently access it from
one place for example.

GNU social is not an attempt to reproduce the user experience of social
sites like MySpace, Facebook, or Google+.

The underlying federation protocol that GNU social uses (OStatus) is
quite general, and any kind of media can be shared with it. The GNU
social software itself is plugin-based, and any kind of UI can be
written for it. If someone cared to, they ~could~ write an interface
that looked and acted much like Facebook or Google+, with photo
galleries and all, although I don't know of any current efforts to do

The default GNU social UI, based on the old StatusNet UI, is not being
changed much right now.  I believe the most actively-developed interface
is Qvitter, the Twitter-like, microblogging-oriented UI that you see on
sites like Another interesting UI is being developed
at that is photo-sharing oriented, similar to Instagram.

The current priority of the core developers, as I understand it,
is not to work on user interface design, but to get the underlying
mechanics of OStatus federation working really well, with particular
emphasis on microblogging and threaded, federated, conversations.  Third
parties are more than welcome to either write GNU social UI plugins or
develop standalone apps using the API(s).

How is performance and scalability be dealt with? Do we currently queue
the messages and remove them if a node is considered "death" or when a
user's profile is removed? Do we synchronise information every once in a
while? How is consistency guaranteed when a node was down for
maintenance and we want to keep information synchronised. Is there some
kind of polling mechanism.

All user activity is published on their node as a feed. As this activity
happens, the node tries to push it out to the user/group's subscribers.
If a recipient node is down for any amount of time, it won't receive
those push notifications (I've seen mention of a push queue/retry system
in the source code, but I believe this is not currently implemented),
but that node needs only to fetch the feeds of its users' subscriptions
once it's brought back online to catch-up.  I'm not actually sure how
this catching-up is implemented right now -- it might be an admin script
that needs to be manually run -- but that's the basic principle.

If this isn't the appropriate place to discuss this please let me know.
Although this information might be useful to be put in a document or
something (i.e. FAQ).

As Doug Whitfield said, the mailing list is fine, but it doesn't get a
lot of traffic.  Better points of contact are:

- The #social IRC channel on
- The !gnusocial group, on GNU social:

Adam Moore/LÆMEUR (@SDF) <address@hidden>

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