How to Use the WordPress ActivityPub Plugin

Over 10 years ago, I wrote a post with this title: “There is an Open Source Rival to Facebook: WordPress“.

In that post I pointed out that WordPress had almost all the features needed to build a social platform and asked, “What might happen if all those WordPress sites were linked together into a network?”

I don’t claim to be any kind of soothsayer. And if I were smarter, I might have tried to build a social network on that idea.

But if we fast forward to 2023, something approaching my original idea is now possible with the ActivityPub plugin for WordPress.

Introducing ActivityPub for WordPress

Version 1.0 of the ActivityPub plugin is now available for your WordPress sites.

ActivityPub is a “decentralized social networking protocol”. It could form the basis for a new social network. And your WordPress site could serve as your profile, and source of content.

ActivityPub does not have to be used with WordPress but has a lot of overlap with it’s open source and decentralized philosophy. I recommend this Verge article for a great introduction to ActivityPub.

The ActivityPub plugin was acquired by Automattic earlier this year. Techcrunch has a post on this week’s re-launch with some helpful background:

At the time of its acquisition, the ActivityPub plug-in supported federated platforms including Mastodon, Pleroma, Friendica, HubZilla, Pixelfed, SocialHome, and Misskey.

For the time being, the software supports self-hosted WordPress blogs, but [Matt] Wiebe teased that support for blogs was “coming soon.”

At the moment, there’s no support for ActivityPub from the major social networks, but Tumblr, Threads, and BlueSky may soon integrate with the protocol. Over the last few years, social networks have been splintering and it would be a major improvement for social users to have control over their own profile on their own site.

In this post, I’ll walk you though how the ActivityPub plugin works, explore the key features, and see whether this is finally the open source social platform that could gain traction.

Installing and Configuring ActivityPub

Install the ActivityPub plugin.
  • Immediately after installing the plugin, you’ll see your own author profile. The ActivityPub plugin allows each site author to have their own profile. In this screenshot below, you can see I’ve installed the plugin on my personal site at If you use this option, your main social profile link will go back to your author archives page on your WordPress site.
Your author profile in ActivityPub for WordPress
  • Click the “Settings” and you’ll be able to enable a site-wide feed. In this screenshot, you can see that I’ve configured this to use [email protected]. If you use this option, your main social profile link will go back to your WordPress site’s homepage.
A site-wide author profile in ActivityPub for WordPress
A Mastadon profile connected to WordPress
  • If someone replies to your posts, the comments will automatically appear inside WordPress where you can moderate them and reply.
Mastodon comments imported into WordPress
  • The social comments and replies are available as normal WordPress comments. Your replies won’t be visible on the original federated network, but will be collected on yoru site. You can see how the comments work in this post live on my site.
Mastodon comments displayed on WordPress
  • As your profile gathers followers, you’ll be able to see a list of them by going to the “Followers” tab inside the ActivityPub plugin.
Mastodon followers imported into WordPress

Unlike most social networks, you can format your posts when using ActivityPub. There are template tags you can use to control your post content:

Format of ActivityPub posts

The ActivityPub recommend several other plugins to expand the features available for WordPress users:

  • Following Others: To follow people on Mastodon or similar platforms using your own WordPress, you can use the Friends Plugin for WordPress which uses this plugin to receive posts and display them on your own WordPress, thus making your own WordPress a Fediverse instance of its own.
  • Add a URL Shortener: Hum is a personal URL shortener for WordPress, designed to provide short URLs to your personal content, both hosted on WordPress and elsewhere.
  • Advanced WebFinger Support: WebFinger is a protocol that allows for discovery of information about people and things identified by a URI. Information about a person might be discovered via an “acct:” URI, for example, which is a URI that looks like an email address.: The ActivityPub plugin comes with basic WebFinger support, if you need more configuration options and compatibility with other Fediverse/IndieWeb plugins, please install the WebFinger plugin.
  • Provide Enhanced Information about Your Blog: NodeInfo is an effort to create a standardized way of exposing metadata about a server running one of the distributed social networks. The two key goals are being able to get better insights into the user base of distributed social networking and the ability to build tools that allow users to choose the best fitting software and server for their needs. The ActivityPub plugin comes with a simple NodeInfo endpoint. If you need more configuration options and compatibility with other Fediverse plugins, please install the NodeInfo plugin.
Recommend plugins to support the ActivityPub plugin

If you have an SEO plugin installed, there’s a high chance that it’s disabling your author archive pages. This is done because it can help improve your search engine optimization, but you’ll need to disable that feature to use ActivityPub.

Yoast SEO archive page settings

Summary for ActivityPub 1.0

Back in my 2012 post, I wrote this:

“I always cringe when seeing people try to build an open source rival to Facebook. Projects like Diaspora gain publicity as a nice idea, but get little real traction.”

At the end of the day, that’s where ActivityPub is now. It’s a nice idea and it’s well executed. I would love an idea like this to gain traction, but we’ve had more than a decade to watch how difficult that hurdle is. It helps that Automattic owns Tumblr and which immediately give them substantial scale. And that there are platforms such as BlueSky who may have their own incentives to support ActivityPub. The Techcrunch article above mentions that Medium and Flipboard have ActivityPub support.

There’s clearly potential here. Let’s see if there’s traction in the next few months and years.

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