In a recent Twitch session I decided to add Webmentions to my blog, specifically in the flavour of showing "liked" from other websites (though, who am I kidding, it'll just be Twitter…).

Amazingly I managed it in 90 minutes (with 3 stream crashes to boot).

Adding Webmentions to a site seemed straightforward and a well trodden path. Sending outgoing webmentions on the other hand seems to have been generally left to ones own devices.

So I decided to take up the challenge and build a platform agnostic method of sending outgoing webmentions, that anyone can use.

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TL;DR - sending webmentions

I've written an application that will scan a URL's contents and deliver webmentions (and pingbacks where supported) to those sites your post links to (and supports webmentions).

This works with a homepage containing multiple posts, single stand alone posts and RSS feeds. For homepage (or pages with multiple blog posts) there's the expectation that the h-entry microformat schema is being used.

Please let me introduce: https://webmention.app

If relying on a third-party isn't your bag, then you can install the command line tool and use it with your deploy process.

TL;DR - receiving webmentions

Webmentions are cool and the evolution of pingbacks. They're also (supposed to be) decentralised, like the web. I'm pretty sure the way I'm using Webmentions on my blog today is wrong…ish.

To add webmentions to your site: connect your socials with Bridgy, auth with webmention.io and add client side JS webmention.js to your site.

Max Böck also has an excellent write up on using Webmentions on a static site.

My concerns are currently that there's a great gravitation towards Twitter as the place a post gets mentioned. This lead directly to my next issue: that sending Webmentions for normal blog posts didn't seem to have a common solution, yet…

Webmentions, Twitter and the status quo

From what I've seen so far there's a particularly strong relationship between Twitter likes/retweets/replies and webmentions appearing on blogs. In fact it's exactly how I approached Webmentions in the first place - to add likes on my posts. Those "likes" on my site are driven entirely by Twitter.

My site is picking up Twitter likes because Bridgy is checking social media and sending Webmentions to my site. What I'm keen to see is Webmentions properly supersede their predecessor of pingbacks. I want to see "replies" on blog posts actually pointing to other blog posts.

Reading Jeremy Keith's post on Indie Web building blocks, he touches on what I'm already starting to see:

My site doesn’t automatically send Webmentions to any links I reference in my posts—I should really fix that—but that’s okay; Aaron—like me—has a form under each of his posts where you can paste in the URL of your response.

I'll acknowledge that starting with a form is a great form of progressive enhancement, but it's how Jeremy, or anyone for that matter, might go about automating the problem that bothers me. It's not a particularly simple task and potential bespoke for many.

If the status quo gets stuck at: I write a post, you write a response post (or separate commentary), then you have to come back to my post to enter your blog post URL to notify me of a WebMention, then…it feels…cumbersome, and like it probably won't stand the test of time.

The ability to send Webmentions needs to be a part of an automated workflow - the same way as posting a new WordPress blog post automatically sent pingbacks.

Equally important is that a website that doesn't accept webmentions should be able to send webmentions.

So lets go about fixing that.

How to automatically send outgoing Webmention notifications

In the workflow for webmentions, the biggest part that I believe needs automation is sending outgoing webmentions to links referenced in new posts.

So I've written my own solution to this:

🎉🌈 webmention.app ✨💫

I've also tried very hard to get the documentation to be as welcoming as I can. I've tried to think about my dear visitor and what they want to do with the software, rather than type my typical developer approach to documentation - listing all the features and options.

In addition, (and as usual with most of my projects) the source code is available on Github.

You can give the service a URL to the /check endpoint and it will give you a preview of notifications it will send. To send outgoing notifications (rather than a dry-run) use a POST request.

You can pass it:

  • An RSS feed
  • A single post URL
  • Any URL to find multiple posts (like your homepage)

In addition, if you're not comfortable relying on a third-party for the notification process (because: who knows what site will outlast yours), you can install it as a command line tool and run locally.

The command line can be used as part of a build process - in this case we're assuming that the project will generate a static RSS feed in ./_site/feed.xml.

$ npm install @remy/webmention
$ npx webmention ./_site/feed.xml --limit 1 --send

This will pick the first item in the RSS (the latest post) and send any Webmentions found.

In my personal case, I'm using the service as part of my Netlify post-build process - described in detail on the website. Each successful Netlify build calls the webmention.app service using my token and points to my RSS. As Netlify sends a POST webhook, the webmentions are automatically sent out.


Give it a try, let me know what you think. As I said, I've tried to put extra effort into the documentation and my hope that it is simple enough to follow for most bloggers: webmention.app