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Initiating conversations

on the IndieWeb

Posted by Jeena

I'm a member of the IndieWebCamp community and this post is about initiating a conversation between two websites, like you do on Twitter when you just mention someone with @username without replying to some other tweet and they get a notification about that.

So the sollution we have is to send a webmention to the homepage and to hope that it returns a 202, so you know that it got there and the person behind this website will be notified.

But in here lies the big problem I have with it. I have to create my post first, and writing it takes time, then send it and only then I get to know if this particular website does implement receiving webmentions on the homepage or not.

One would think that the fact that a homepage has a <link rel="webmention"> would suggest that they also receive webmentions there. But most of the websites I tried this with don't. Especially the software Known which is used by many. It does have the link on the homepage but just doesn't accept webmentions send to the homepage. I heard that they will implement it quite soon, but it still shows that this assumption is false.

This is a really bad UX. My software has no way to determine if the other side will at least be willing to receive a webmention to the homepage, so I could initiate a conversation with some person, instead of reacting to something they already wrote and highjacking something else just to get the webmentions working.

I really don't want to have to write a complete thing before I can find out if the person I'm wtiting it to will ever be able to be notified about my thing. It would be awesome if there was a way for my software to find that out and to indicate that somehow before I have started writing the thing.

There could be the convention that if you have a <link rel="webmention"> on your homepage then it is at least your intention to show that you are able to receive webmentions for that. Then my software could just get your homepage and check for that link and indicate to me in my UI if you will be or will not be able to receive this webmention and if I should bother to write it or if I should find a different way to contact you.

We discussed it a bit on the IRC and sknebel there had the idea of probe mentions, where you would send only the destination to the webmentions endpoint and it would tell you if this destination is able to to receive a webmention or not. This would even still be backwards compatible which makes it even nicer.

Another update gRegorLove: proposed to automatically check for rel=me alternatives if webmention fails so you can try to find an alternative way to contact that person and send them the link to your initial comment.

1 Reply


I think relying on rel-webmention is the right thing to do long term. If one advertises that one accepts mentions, but still doesn't do it, then something is wrong and since it's still early on we should try to fix the cases where rel-webmention is advertised wrongly rather than try to build workarounds. If we are to build workarounds, then we should first document why rel-webmention doesn't work and why we can't fix it so that it works. +1 on bringing it up! (I hope to contribute by making it very easy to set up such a mechanism using my Webmention endpoint. I have one set up at http://voxpelli.com/mentions/)

Have you written a response? Let me know the URL:

There's also indie comments (webmentions) support.