Threads: ActivityPub and WordPress

by | Jul 7, 2023 | WordPress

Meta has released a new microblogging app: Threads. It leverages the user base of Instagram and the users’ followers to pre-build an audience for new members. This may be an excellent antidote to the death spiral of Twitter. After Elon Musk’s petty and disastrous Twitter tactics, Web321 pulled back from using Twitter. By July 6, the new app had been downloaded thirty million times, becoming the most rapidly downloaded app, beating even the adoption speed of Chat-GPT.

The game changer of Threads vs. Twitter: interoperability. Threads connects via a newer protocol, ActivityPub. Mastodon, WordPress and likely a growing number of new services will use this protocol. The success of the Web came from protocols that allow communication between systems and services. As Facebook grew to the point where people asked, “Do we need the Web if we have Facebook?” people missed that systems like Facebook and Twitter are websites– websites with lots of connectivity, but still not an actual communications platform. Protocol lean on the Internet’s capacity for durability and openness. With Threads adopting ActivityPub, it’s going where Twitter cannot go.

ActivityPub

The ActivityPub protocol is a decentralized social networking protocol based upon the [ActivityStreams] 2.0 data format. It provides a client to server API for creating, updating and deleting content, as well as a federated server to server API for delivering notifications and content. This is an excellent feature because ActivityStreams encompasses all the essential terms required to depict the various activities and content circulating within a social network. It is highly probable that ActivityStreams already encompasses all the necessary vocabulary; however, in the rare case that it doesn’t, ActivityStreams can be expanded and augmented using [JSON-LD]. If anyone peeks at the source code of Web321 websites, they’ll notice that we use JSON-LD to create machine readable content for services like search engines to read-in. It’s a really powerful means of connecting a website’s message to the intended audiences.

ActivityPub implementations make possible the decentralized social web, and being able to use clients and client libraries that work across a wide variety of social websites).

The decentralized web, also known as the fediverse, aims to provide social media users with a more transparent, ethical, and decentralized platform to communicate and connect with others. Instead of relying on a single company or server, the fediverse consists of many independent servers hosted by various organizations and individuals worldwide. Each server has its own rules and community, but they can all work together. If you don’t like any existing options or want to try something new, you can simply download open source software and create your own server. Each server can function as its own social network, giving users more freedom and control.

The best part: ActivityPub integrates with WordPress.

WordPress

WordPress’ Automattic has released the ActivityPub plugin. It brings a new level of social networking to your website by integrating it with the wider federated social web: a decentralized means of publishing and interacting with other social networks and other publishing sources. The plugin allows you to easily share your content and interact with users on Threads, Mastodon and other platforms that also support the ActivityPub protocol. (here’s the short list, but expect it to grow with Threads’ launch).

Installing the WordPress ActivityPub plugin is easy:

  1. From your WP-Admin dashboard, go to the “Plugins” and search “ActivityPub” (all one word). Alternatively, you can click here and go directly to the plugin page. Uses on the WordPress.com service will need to upgrade their service level to Business or Corporate. Web321 clients will be able to use ActivityPub with their website.
  2. Click “Install and activate.”
  3. Once activated, you can click “Manage plugin,” which allows you to choose the type of content that will show up in fediverse feeds — if you’re not quite ready for that, you can always access it later under “Settings” → “ActivityPub.”
  4. Make sure your blog’s author profile page is active.
  5. Go to Threads and search for your author’s new federated profile, and follow it. Your new profile will be in the form of @[username]@[website], so that is what you’ll search for.
  6. Back on your site, publish a new post.
  7. From Threads, check to see if the new post appears in your Home feed. Messages are sent to the federated platforms using a delayed cron job on your website. This avoids breaking the publishing process for those cases where users might have lots of followers.It may take up to 15 minutes for the new post to show up in your federated feed.

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