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A new website running on a new platform

idno.pngI just installed a vanilla configuration of idno onto my new website at

idno is a personal attempt at building a publishing platform that adheres to IndieWeb principles: own your own data, publish on your own site, use existing social websites for dissemination but not as an origin. I've also tried to use microformats where possible, allowing every page to contain lightweight semantic information, as well as making it skinnable, extensible, and social.

I also wanted a chance to think about platform design again, separately from my work at latakoo (where I'm CTO) and informed by my previous work on Elgg (which I helped start nine years ago). What would I do if I was building a platform from scratch in 2013? How could I make it more useful?

I'm proud of the results so far, and the decisions I've made. Here are some highlights:

idno is based on Activity Streams, and every page is an API call

If you visit the front page of the site, or click on any user profile, the feed you see is an Activity Stream (albeit rendered to HTML). You can easily toggle a JSON version by setting application/json to be your web client's accepted type. There's automatic RSS, of course, too. And if entities have attachments - for example an uploaded file or a photo - the RSS items have automatic enclosure tags, as you'd expect. (That means idno can host podcasts and deliver other files via RSS.)

The system is designed so that all plugins automatically have an API without having to do any extra work. I'm also planning on implementing HTTP signatures, or something like them, to authenticate seamlessly in addition to standard sessions.

idno uses HTML5 (and Bootstrap, jQuery)

HTML5 needs no introduction or reasoning. Bootstrap is a very handy set of rails for responsive front-end design (with lots of pre-existing themes), and jQuery is an integral part of that. On top of that, idno bakes in some useful features behind the scenes - like autosaving works in progress using your browser's local storage, for example.

idno runs on PHP 5.4 with a MongoDB back-end.

PHP is a controversial decision, but it remains one of the most widely-deployed web scripting languages in the world. Version 5.4 is old enough to be installable on most servers, but new enough to contain some really neat features. Idno makes extensive use of the JsonSerializable interface. (It also uses a lot of 5.3 features like lazy loading and namespaces.) MongoDB, meanwhile, means that we don't have to force plugin writers to maintain schemas, nor to emulate NoSQL in MySQL, which has been a tactic I've used in the past. So far it's performing great, and it also provides GridFS, a useful file store.

All of this a work in progress, which has mostly been coded late at night, and there's still a lot to do. For example, at the time of publishing, the hashtags below aren't linked anywhere and aren't automatically marked up, but I bet if you check back in a few days, they will be. Another is that although my posts are automatically POSSEd out across the web, I can't yet posts things like replies to tweets from the idno interface. Nonetheless, I invite the brave to check out the GitHub repository (idno is released under an Apache 2.0 license), and let me know what you think.

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Twitter: @benwerd

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