Send in your ideas. Deadline October 1, 2024
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Theme fund: NGI0 Discovery
Start: 2020-12
End: 2022-10

XMPP-ActivityPub gateway

XMPP, ActivityPub and E2EE Pubsub

XMPP (aka Jabber) is the vendor-netural internet standard for instant messaging. ActivityPub is a web standard for federated social networking, used in software like Mastodon, Pleroma, PeerTube, Pixelfed and Funkwhale. The project consists of two components: an ActivityPub-XMPP gateway, which will be a component bridging these protocols - enabling ActivityPub users to access XMPP blogs, comments and other features, and vice versa. And adding state of the art end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for PubSub and filesharing, which entails proposing a new XMPP standard which can provide a secure way to publish, retrieve and subscribe to all sorts of data over XMPP.

The project is built on Libervia (previously known as "Salut à Toi"), a communication ecosystem based on XMPP. Libervia offers several interfaces (web, desktop, mobile, command line, text UI) and explores the XMPP protocol beyond instant messaging. Libervia features chat, blogging, file sharing, photo albums, events, forums, etc. Libervia's goal is to develop an all-in-one, easy to use "familial and personal social network", i.e. a tool to communicate with the people close to you securely - and that lets your personal data stay within your control (as it should be).

Why does this actually matter to end users?

Social media are important for many people to stay in touch, but they also influence the way we act ourselves. Their persistent presence in our lives creates a lot of pressure to be someone else then we are. This is not a coincidence: the developers have designed the software to keep us 'engaged' at any cost. If we sleep less well because of a message we got just before we went to sleep, that is fair game. We may wake up with a hundred messages we "missed", which creates a lot of stress. But it keeps us engaged, and keeps the advertising cash flowing.

Another problematic issue to address is monoculture. Social networks do not allow to cross the boundary of their service in an easy way, leading to social lock in and a "winner takes all" scenario. This limits choice, but also exposes users to legal dangers. Confidential discussions through "private" messages for instance turn out to be not so private, such as the case where a United States got the social network Twitter to hand over the personal communication from European human rights activists and a member of the Icelandic parliament over a severe human rights violation by the USA military. The European Court of Human Rights would certainly not have allowed this, but it happened outside of our jurisdiction - even if all the actors never left Europe.

Problems of social engineering, toxic spaces and surveillance can be addressed by taking matters into our own hands: organizing social media and communication yourself, using open and decentralized solutions precisely as you want it. That is what protocols like XMPP (also known as Jabber) and ActivityPub provide. The instant messaging capabilities, complete with for example end-to-end encrypted direct messaging, of XMPP are an excellent addition to the microblogging, event organization and content publishing functions ActivityPub provides. Bridging the two technologies and communities (there are hundreds of XMPP- and ActivityPub-providing servers run by organizations and people around the world) would create a solid, rich alternative to more centralized social networking tools, improving our online independence and sovereignty.

Run by Salut à Toi

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This project was funded through the NGI0 Discovery Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825322.