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Collections

In ActivityPub, a collection is a group of objects. For example, the followers collection consists of the followers of an actor, and the outbox collection consists of the activities that an actor has sent.

Fedify provides a generic way to construct and handle collections. This section explains how to work with collections in Fedify.

Outbox

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Since the way to construct an outbox collection is the same as the way to construct any other collection, the following examples are also applicable to constructing other collections.

First, let's see how to construct an outbox collection. An outbox collection consists of the activities that an actor has sent. As each collection has its own URI, the outbox collection has its own URI, too. The URI of the outbox collection is determined by the first parameter of the Federation.setOutboxDispatcher() method:

typescript
federation
  .setOutboxDispatcher("/users/{handle}/outbox", async (ctx, handle) => {
    // Work with the database to find the activities that the actor has sent.
    // Omitted for brevity.  See the next example for details.
  });

Each actor has its own outbox collection, so the URI pattern of the outbox dispatcher should include the actor's bare {handle}. The URI pattern syntax follows the URI Template specification.

Since the outbox is a collection of activities, the outbox dispatcher should return an array of activities. The following example shows how to construct an outbox collection:

typescript
import { Article, Create } from "@fedify/fedify";

federation
  .setOutboxDispatcher("/users/{handle}/outbox", async (ctx, handle) => {
    // Work with the database to find the activities that the actor has sent
    // (the following `getPostsByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function):
    const posts = await getPostsByUserHandle(handle);
    // Turn the posts into `Create` activities:
    const items = posts.map(post =>
      new Create({
        id: new URL(`/posts/${post.id}#activity`, ctx.url),
        actor: ctx.getActorUri(handle),
        object: new Article({
          id: new URL(`/posts/${post.id}`, ctx.url),
          summary: post.title,
          content: post.content,
        }),
      })
    );
    return { items };
  });

If you try to access the outbox collection of an actor, the server will respond with a JSON object that contains the activities that the actor has sent:

http
GET /users/alice/outbox HTTP/1.1
Accept: application/activity+json
Host: localhost
http
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: application/activity+json
Vary: Accept

{
  "@context": "https://www.w3.org/ns/activitystreams",
  "items": [
    {
      "id": "http://localhost/posts/123#activity",
      "type": "Create",
      "actor": "http://localhost/users/alice",
      "object": {
        "id": "http://localhost/posts/123",
        "type": "Article",
        "summary": "Hello, world!",
        "content": "This is the first post."
      }
    },
    // More items...
  ]
}

As you can expect, the server responds with the whole activities that the actor has sent without any pagination. In the real world, you should implement pagination for the outbox collection. In the next section, we'll see how to implement pagination for a collection.

Page

A collection page is a subset of a collection. For example, the first page of the outbox collection is a collection page that contains the first few items of the outbox collection. Each page has its own URI which is determined by a unique cursor, and links to the next and previous pages if they exist. No random access is allowed for a collection page; you can only access the next and previous pages.

Fedify abstracts the concept of a collection page as cursor-based pagination. The cursor is a string that represents the position in the collection. It can be either an opaque token or an offset numeric value; the way to interpret it is up to the server implementation.

If your database system supports cursor-based pagination (Deno KV, for example), you can just use the cursor that the database system provides as is. If your database system supports only offset-based pagination (the most relational databases), you can use the offset as the cursor.

Although it's omitted in the previous example, there is the third parameter to a callback that ~Federation.setOutboxDispatcher() method takes: the cursor. When the request is for a collection page, the cursor is passed to the callback as the third parameter. When the request is for a whole collection, the cursor is null (that the previous example assumes).

Here's an example of how to implement collection pages for the outbox collection with assuming that the database system supports cursor-based pagination:

typescript
federation
  .setOutboxDispatcher("/users/{handle}/outbox", async (ctx, handle, cursor) => {
    // If a whole collection is requested, returns nothing as we prefer
    // collection pages over the whole collection:
    if (cursor == null) return null;
    // Work with the database to find the activities that the actor has sent
    // (the following `getPostsByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function):
    const { posts, nextCursor, last } = await getPostsByUserHandle(handle, {
      cursor,
      limit: 10,
    });
    // Turn the posts into `Create` activities:
    const items = posts.map(post =>
      new Create({
        id: new URL(`/posts/${post.id}#activity`, ctx.url),
        actor: ctx.getActorUri(handle),
        object: new Article({
          id: new URL(`/posts/${post.id}`, ctx.url),
          summary: post.title,
          content: post.content,
        }),
      })
    );
    return {
      items,
      // If `last` is `true`, it means that the current page is the last page:
      nextCursor: last ? null : nextCursor,
    }
  });

In the above example, the hypothetical getPostsByUserHandle() function returns the nextCursor along with the items. The nextCursor represents the position of the next page, which is provided by the database system. If the last is true, it means that the current page is the last page, so the nextCursor is null.

First cursor

The first cursor is a special cursor that represents the beginning of the collection. It's used to initialize a traversal of the collection. The first cursor is null if the collection is empty.

The value for the first cursor is determined by ~CollectionCallbackSetters.setFirstCursor() method:

typescript
// The number of items per page:
const window = 10;

federation
  .setOutboxDispatcher("/users/{handle}/outbox", async (ctx, handle, cursor) => {
    if (cursor == null) return null;
    // The following `getPostsByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function:
    const { posts, nextCursor, last } = await getPostsByUserHandle(
      handle,
      cursor === "" ? { limit: window } : { cursor, limit: window }
    );
    // Turn the posts into `Create` activities:
    const items = posts.map(post =>
      new Create({
        id: new URL(`/posts/${post.id}#activity`, ctx.url),
        actor: ctx.getActorUri(handle),
        object: new Article({
          id: new URL(`/posts/${post.id}`, ctx.url),
          summary: post.title,
          content: post.content,
        }),
      })
    );
    return { items, nextCursor: last ? null : nextCursor }
  })
  .setFirstCursor(async (ctx, handle) => {
    // Let's assume that an empty string represents the beginning of the
    // collection:
    return "";  // Note that it's not `null`.
  });

In the above example, the first cursor is an empty string. When the first cursor is requested, the server queries the database without any cursor to get the first few items of the collection.

Of course, since the first cursor is also an opaque token, you can use any string as the first cursor.

NOTE

The first cursor is an enabler of the pagination. If you don't set the first cursor, the collection is not considered as paginated, and the server will respond with the whole collection without any pagination.

Counter

As the name suggests, the counter is a callback that counts the total number of items in the collection, which is useful for the client to show, for example, the total number of articles a user has posted.

The following example shows how to implement the counter for the outbox collection:

typescript
federation
  .setOutboxDispatcher("/users/{handle}/outbox", async (ctx, handle, cursor) => {
    // Omitted for brevity.
  })
  .setCounter(async (ctx, handle) => {
    // The following `countPostsByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function:
    return await countPostsByUserHandle(handle);
  });

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The counter can return either a number or a bigint.

Last cursor

The last cursor is a special cursor that represents the end of the collection. With the last cursor and prevCursor, the client can traverse the collection backwards.

Since not all database systems support backward pagination, the last cursor is optional. If you don't set the last cursor, the client can only traverse the collection forwards, which is fine in most cases.

So, the below example assumes that the database system supports offset-based pagination, which is easy to implement backward pagination:

typescript
// The number of items per page:
const window = 10;

federation
  .setOutboxDispatcher("/users/{handle}/outbox", async (ctx, handle, cursor) => {
    if (cursor == null) return null;
    // Here we use the offset numeric value as the cursor:
    const offset = parseInt(cursor);
    // The following `getPostsByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function:
    const posts = await getPostsByUserHandle(
      handle,
      { offset, limit: window }
    );
    // Turn the posts into `Create` activities:
    const items = posts.map(post =>
      new Create({
        id: new URL(`/posts/${post.id}#activity`, ctx.url),
        actor: ctx.getActorUri(handle),
        object: new Article({
          id: new URL(`/posts/${post.id}`, ctx.url),
          summary: post.title,
          content: post.content,
        }),
      })
    );
    return { items, nextCursor: (offset + window).toString() }
  })
  .setFirstCursor(async (ctx, handle) => "0")
  .setLastCursor(async (ctx, handle) => {
    // The following `countPostsByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function:
    const total = await countPostsByUserHandle(handle);
    // The last cursor is the offset of the last page:
    return (total - (total % window)).toString();
  });

Inbox

This API is available since Fedify 0.11.0.

The inbox collection is similar to the outbox collection, but it's a collection of activities that an actor has received.

Cursors and counters for the inbox collection are implemented in the same way as the outbox collection, so we don't repeat the explanation here.

The below example shows how to construct an inbox collection:

typescript
import { Activity } from "@fedify/fedify";

federation
  .setInboxDispatcher("/users/{handle}/inbox", async (ctx, handle) => {
    // Work with the database to find the activities that the actor has received
    // (the following `getInboxByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function):
    const items: Activity[] = await getInboxByUserHandle(handle);
    return { items };
  })
  .setCounter(async (ctx, handle) => {
    // The following `countInboxByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function:
    return await countInboxByUserHandle(handle);
  });

NOTE

The path for the inbox collection dispatcher must match the path for the inbox listeners.

Following

The following collection consists of the actors that an actor is following. The following collection is similar to the outbox collection, but it's a collection of actors instead of activities. More specifically, the following collection can consist of Actor objects or URL objects that represent the actors.

Cursors and counters for the following collection are implemented in the same way as the outbox collection, so we don't repeat the explanation here.

The below example shows how to construct a following collection:

typescript
federation
  .setFollowingDispatcher("/users/{handle}/following", async (ctx, handle, cursor) => {
    // If a whole collection is requested, returns nothing as we prefer
    // collection pages over the whole collection:
    if (cursor == null) return null;
    // Work with the database to find the actors that the actor is following
    // (the below `getFollowingByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function):
    const { users, nextCursor, last } = await getFollowingByUserHandle(
      handle,
      cursor === "" ? { limit: 10 } : { cursor, limit: 10 }
    );
    // Turn the users into `URL` objects:
    const items = users.map(actor => actor.uri);
    return { items, nextCursor: last ? null : nextCursor }
  })
  // The first cursor is an empty string:
  .setFirstCursor(async (ctx, handle) => "");

Followers

The followers collection is very similar to the following collection, but it's a collection of actors that are following the actor. The followers collection has to consist of Recipient objects that represent the actors.

The below example shows how to construct a followers collection:

typescript
federation
  .setFollowersDispatcher(
    "/users/{handle}/followers",
    async (ctx, handle, cursor) => {
      // If a whole collection is requested, returns nothing as we prefer
      // collection pages over the whole collection:
      if (cursor == null) return null;
      // Work with the database to find the actors that are following the actor
      // (the below `getFollowersByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function):
      const { users, nextCursor, last } = await getFollowersByUserHandle(
        handle,
        cursor === "" ? { limit: 10 } : { cursor, limit: 10 }
      );
      // Turn the users into `Recipient` objects:
      const items = users.map(actor => ({
        id: new URL(actor.uri),
        inboxId: new URL(actor.inboxUri),
      }));
      return { items, nextCursor: last ? null : nextCursor };
    }
  )
  // The first cursor is an empty string:
  .setFirstCursor(async (ctx, handle) => "");

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Every Actor object is also a Recipient object, so you can use the Actor object as the Recipient object.

Filtering by server

This API is available since Fedify 0.8.0.

The followers collection can be filtered by the base URI of the actor URIs. It can be useful to filter by a remote server to synchronize the followers collection with it.

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However, the filtering is optional, and you can skip it if you don't need followers collection synchronization.

In order to filter the followers collection by the server, you need to let your followers collection dispatcher be aware of the fourth argument: the base URI of the actor URIs to filter in. The base URI consists of the protocol, the authority (the host and the port), and the root path of the actor URIs. When the base URI is not null, the dispatcher should return only the actors whose URIs start with the base URI. If the base URI is null, the dispatcher should return all the actors.

The following example shows how to filter the followers collection by the server:

typescript
federation
  .setFollowersDispatcher(
    "/users/{handle}/followers",
    async (ctx, handle, cursor, baseUri) => {
      // Work with the database to find the actors that are following the actor
      // (the below `getFollowersByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function):
      let users = await getFollowersByUserHandle(handle);
      // Filter the actors by the base URI:
      if (baseUri != null) {
        users = users.filter(actor => actor.uri.href.startsWith(baseUri.href));
      }
      // Turn the users into `URL` objects:
      const items = users.map(actor => actor.uri);
      return { items };
    }
  );

NOTE

In the above example, we filter the actors in memory, but in the real world, you should filter the actors in the database query to improve the performance.

Liked

This API is available since Fedify 0.11.0.

The liked collection is a collection of objects that an actor has liked. The liked collection is similar to the outbox collection, but it's a collection of Like activities instead of any activities.

Cursors and counters for the liked collection are implemented in the same way as the outbox collection, so we don't repeat the explanation here.

The below example shows how to construct a liked collection:

typescript
federation
  .setLikedDispatcher("/users/{handle}/liked", async (ctx, handle, cursor) => {
    // Work with the database to find the objects that the actor has liked
    // (the below `getLikedPostsByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function):
    const objects = await getLikedByUserHandle(handle);
    // Turn the ActivityStreams objects into `Like` activities:
    const items = objects.map(object =>
      new Like({
        id: new URL(`#post-${object.id}`, ctx.url),
        actor: ctx.getActorUri(handle),
        object: new URL(object.uri),
      })
    );
    return { items };
  });

This API is available since Fedify 0.11.0.

The featured collection is a collection of objects that an actor has featured on top of their profile, i.e., pinned statuses. The featured collection is similar to the outbox collection, but it's a collection of any ActivityStreams objects instead of activities.

Cursor and counter for the featured collection are implemented in the same way as the outbox collection, so we don't repeat the explanation here.

The below example shows how to construct a featured collection:

typescript
federation
  .setFeaturedDispatcher("/users/{handle}/featured", async (ctx, handle, cursor) => {
    // Work with the database to find the objects that the actor has featured
    // (the below `getFeaturedPostsByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function):
    const items = await getFeaturedByUserHandle(handle);
    return { items };
  });

This API is available since Fedify 0.11.0.

The featured tags collection is a collection of tags that an actor has featured on top of their profile. The featured tags collection is similar to the featured collection, but it's a collection of Hashtag objects instead of any ActivityStreams objects.

Cursor and counter for the featured tags collection are implemented in the same way as the outbox collection, so we don't repeat the explanation here.

The below example shows how to construct a featured tags collection:

typescript
federation
  .setFeaturedTagsDispatcher("/users/{handle}/tags", async (ctx, handle, cursor) => {
    // Work with the database to find the tags that the actor has featured
    // (the below `getFeaturedTagsByUserHandle` is a hypothetical function):
    const hashtags = await getFeaturedTagsByUserHandle(handle);
    const items = hashtags.map(hashtag =>
      new Hashtag({
        href: new URL(`/tags/${encodeURIComponent(hashtag)}`, ctx.url),
        name: `#${hashtag}`,
      })
    );
    return { items };
  });