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    activitypub-express (apex)

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    Modular implementation of the ActivityPub decentralized social networking protocol, written for NodeJS as ExpressJS middleware. Includes a interchangeable storage interface with a default MongoDB implementation.


    In order for http request signing to function correctly, a patched version of the http-signature library is required. To ensure that the request library is using the correct version for its sub-dependency, you may need to dedupe after installation.

    npm install --save activitypub-express
    npm dedupe


    const express = require('express')
    const { MongoClient } = require('mongodb')
    const ActivitypubExpress = require('activitypub-express')
    const port = 8080
    const app = express()
    const routes = {
      actor: '/u/:actor',
      object: '/o/:id',
      activity: '/s/:id',
      inbox: '/u/:actor/inbox',
      outbox: '/u/:actor/outbox',
      followers: '/u/:actor/followers',
      following: '/u/:actor/following',
      liked: '/u/:actor/liked',
      collections: '/u/:actor/c/:id',
      blocked: '/u/:actor/blocked',
      rejections: '/u/:actor/rejections',
      rejected: '/u/:actor/rejected',
      shares: '/s/:id/shares',
      likes: '/s/:id/likes'
    const apex = ActivitypubExpress({
      name: 'Apex Example',
      version: '1.0.0',
      domain: 'localhost',
      actorParam: 'actor',
      objectParam: 'id',
      activityParam: 'id',
      endpoints: {
        proxyUrl: 'https://localhost/proxy'
    const client = new MongoClient('mongodb://localhost:27017')
      express.json({ type: apex.consts.jsonldTypes }),
      express.urlencoded({ extended: true }),
    // define routes using prepacakged middleware collections
    // custom side-effects for your app
    app.on('apex-outbox', msg => {
      if (msg.activity.type === 'Create') {
        console.log(`New ${msg.object.type} from ${}`)
    app.on('apex-inbox', msg => {
      if (msg.activity.type === 'Create') {
        console.log(`New ${msg.object.type} from ${} to ${msg.recipient}`)
      .then(() => { = client.db('DB_NAME')
      .then(() => {
        app.listen(port, () => console.log(`apex app listening on port ${port}`))

    Next Steps and Examples

    Okay so you've got an ActivityPub server, now what?

    Server-to-server apps: For an app that people interact with by sending messages from another app (e.g. Mastodon), you'll want to define custom side-effects using app.on('apex-inbox', ({ actor, activity, recipient, object }) => {...}), which is fired for each incoming message.

    For an example of a server-to-server app build with activitypub-expresss, check out Guppe Groups - the federated social groups app server built with just 250 lines of code.

    Full platform: For a full-fledged app with its own users, the next thing you'll probably want is user authentication and authorization. Apex integrates well with Passport.js, but can work with anything.

    For an example of a full social platform built with activitypub-express, check out Immers Space - the federated social platform for virtual worlds.


    ActivitypubExpress initializer

    Configures and returns an express middleware function that must be added to the route before any other apex middleware. It needs to be configured with the routes you will use in order to correctly generate IRIs and actor profiles

    const ActivitypubExpress = require('activitypub-express')
    const apex = ActivitypubExpress(options)
    Option Description
    name String. Name of your app to list in nodeinfo
    version String. Version of your app to list in nodeinfo
    baseUrl String. Server URL origin. Also used as URI prefix. Should be the public-facing URL when using a reverse proxy. Overrides domain if set
    domain String. Hostname for your app
    actorParam String. Express route parameter used for actor name
    objectParam String. Express route parameter used for object id
    routes Object. The routes your app uses for ActivityPub endpoints (including parameter). Details below Actor profile route & IRI pattern
    routes.object Object retrieval route & IRI pattern
    routes.activity Activity retrieval route & IRI pattern
    routes.inbox Actor inbox route
    routes.outbox Actor outbox route
    routes.following Actor following collection route
    routes.followers Actor followers collection route
    routes.liked Actor liked collection route
    routes.blocked Actor's blocklist
    routes.rejected Activities rejected by actor
    routes.rejections Actor's activities that were rejected by recipient
    routes.shares Activity shares collection route
    routes.likes Activity likes collection route
    routes.collections Actors' miscellaneous collections route (must include actorParam and collectionParam)
    activityParam String. Express route parameter used for activity id (defaults to objectParam)
    collectionParam String. Express route parameter used for collection id (defaults to objectParam)
    pageParam String. Query parameter used for collection page identifier (defaults to page)
    itemsPerPage Number. Count of items in each collection page (default 20)
    context String, Object, Array. JSON-LD context(s) to use with your app in addition to the base AcivityStreams + Security vocabs
    endpoints Object. Optional system-wide api endpoint URLs included in actor objects: proxyUrl, oauthAuthorizationEndpoint, oauthTokenEndpoint, provideClientKey, signClientKey, sharedInbox, uploadMedia
    logger Object with info, warn, error methods to replace console
    store Replace the default storage model & database backend with your own (see store/interface.js for API)
    threadDepth Controls how far up apex will follow links in incoming activities in order to display the conversation thread & check for inbox forwarding needs (default 10)
    systemUser Actor object representing system and used for signing GETs (see below)
    offlineMode Disable delivery. Useful for running migrations and queueing deliveries to be sent when app is running
    requestTimeout Timeout for requests to other servers, ms (default 5000)
    openRegistrations Advertise via nodeinfo if an instance allows instant registration (default false)
    nodeInfoMetadata Object of additional data to provde in nodeinfo reponses

    Blocked, rejections, and rejected: these routes must be defined in order to track these items internally for each actor, but they do not need to be exposed endpoints (and probably should not be public even then)

    System User / GET authentication

    Some federated apps may require http signature authentication on GET requests. To enable this functionality, set the systemUser property on your apex instance equal to an actor created with createActor (generally of type 'Service') and saved to your object store. Its keys will be used to sign all federated object retrieval requests. This property can be set after initializing your apex instance, as you will need access to the createActor method and a database connection.

    const ActivitypubExpress = require('activitypub-express')
    const apex = ActivitypubExpress(options)
    // ... connect to db
    apex.createActor('system-user', 'System user', '', null, 'Service')
      .then(async actor => {
        apex.systemUser = actor


    Q: How do I resolve this error seen when receiving/delivering activities or running the federation tests: Uncaught exception: InvalidHeaderError: bad param format

    A: Run npm dedupe to ensure that the request library is using the patched version of the http-signature library.

    Implementation status

    • [ ] Shared server- & client-to-server
      • [x] Inbox GET
      • [x] Outbox GET
      • [ ] Shared inbox GET
      • [x] Resource GET
        • [x] Object
        • [x] Actor
        • [x] Activity
        • [x] Collections
          • [x] Special collections
            • [x] Inbox
            • [x] Outbox
            • [x] Followers
            • [x] Following
            • [x] Liked
            • [x] Likes
            • [x] Shares
          • [x] Misc collections (of activities)
          • [x] Pagination
        • [x] Relay requests for remote objects
        • [x] Response code 410 for Tombstones
      • [x] Security
        • [x] Permission-based filtering
    • [ ] Server-to-server
      • [x] Inbox POST
        • [x] Activity side-effects
          • [x] Create
          • [x] Update
          • [x] Delete
          • [x] Follow
          • [x] Accept
          • [x] Reject*
          • [x] Add*
          • [x] Remove*
          • [x] Like
          • [x] Announce
          • [x] Undo
          • [x] Other acivity types
        • [x] Security
          • [x] Signature validation
          • [x] Honor recipient blocklist
        • [x] Recursive resolution of related objects
        • [x] Forwarding from inbox
      • [ ] Shared inbox POST
        • [ ] Delivery to targeted local inboxes
      • [x] Delivery
        • [x] Request signing
        • [x] Addressing
          • [x] Shared inbox optmization
          • [ ] Direct delivery to local inboxes
        • [x] Redelivery attempts
    • [ ] Client-to-server
      • [x] Outbox POST
        • [x] Auto-Create for bare objects
        • [x] Activity side-effects
          • [x] Create
          • [x] Update
          • [x] Delete
          • [x] Follow
          • [x] Accept
          • [x] Reject
          • [x] Add
          • [x] Remove
          • [x] Like
          • [x] Block*
          • [x] Undo
          • [x] Other acivity types
      • [ ] Media upload
    • [ ] Other
      • [x] Actor creation
        • [x] Key generation
      • [x] Security
        • [x] Verification
        • [x] localhost block
        • [x] Recursive object resolution depth limit
      • [ ] Related standards
        • [x] http-signature
        • [x] webfinger
        • [x] json-ld
          • [x] Context cache
        • [x] nodeinfo
        • [ ] Linked data signatures
      • [x] Storage model (denormalized MongoDB)
        • [ ] Index coverage for all queries
        • [ ] Fully interchangeable with documented API

    Implementation notes

    • actor.streams miscellaneous collections: Add/Remove activities create custom collections on the fly using the id scheme in routes.collections, but these are not publicized by default. To make a custom collection public, you'll need to publish Updates to the collection object with each Add/Remove. However, for those updates to be verified, the actor must demonstrate ownership by adding the collection id as a property value in actor.streams (and publishing the actor object update)

    • Addressing collections: in addition to followers, apex can also address to miscellaneous collections. It will add actors from the actor and/or object fields of each activity in the collection to the audience.

    • Inbox Add/Remove: I don't see a general purpose (i.e. a remote actor being able to modify local collections); specific uses can be added in the implementation via the event handler.

    • Reject: Activity is added to the actor's rejected (outbox) or rejection (inbox) collection. If the object is a Follow that was previously accepted, this will also remove it from the followers (outbox) or following (inbox) collection.

    • Block: Activity is added to the actor's blocked collection. Per spec, future activities from blocked actors will be silently ignored. Additionally, past activities will be filtered from display in the inbox and followers collections, but they are not permanently deleted, so they would re-appear after undo of block.

    • Rate limits: not included in activitpub-express; should be handled in the specific implementation

    • Content sanitization: the apex default store will sanitize for storage in MongoDB, but display sanitization is not included in activitpub-express. This should be handled in the specific implementation

    • Authorization: the prepacked GET middlewares will only return items that are publicly addressed unless the request is authorized. Determining the requesting user: By default, apex will check for PassportJS-style authentication, where request.user.username has the preferredUsername of the authorized actor. Override this by setting response.locals.apex.authorizedUserId to an actor IRI. Determining authorization: By default, a request is considered authorized if the authorizedUserId is the item's owner. Override this by setting response.locals.apex.authorized to true (allow) or false (deny)

    • Client-to-server unfollow and unblock: to remove an actor from followers, following, or blocked, an "Undo" must be sent with the object being the prior outgoing Follow/Accept/Block. As these past activity ids are not readily available to clients, the client may send the undo (unfollow/unblock) or reject (remove from followers) with an Actor IRI as the object, and the server will find the related Follow/Accept/Block and substitute it before publishing.

    Federation notes

    • http signatures
      • In production mode, incoming POST requests without valid http signatures will be rejected (401 if missing, 403 if invalid)
      • Outoing POST requests are signed ('(request-target)', 'host', 'date', 'digest') with the actor's keypair using the Signature header
      • When using the systemUser config option, outgoing GET requests are signed ('(request-target)', 'host', 'date') with the system user's keypair using the Signature header
    • Synchronizing collections
      • An apex server does not modify collections that belong to other servers and does not expect other servers to maintain the state of its collections.
      • Instead, an Update activity is published whenever the content of a collection changes.
      • If it is an actor collection (e.g. followers), the Update object will be the OrderedCollection itself. Other servers can verify ownership by checking that the Actor object of the sender contains a reference to the collection.
      • If it is an activity collection (likes/shares), the Update object will be the activity itself with the collection objects embedded.


    npm i activitypub-express

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