WordPress.com added support for ActivityPub today, a decentralized social networking protocol that is now available for across free and paid plans. This allows users to join the fediverse from their WordPress.com sites, and interact with content across federated platforms like Mastodon (and many others) with replies automatically published back to the blog as comments.
The latest version of the ActivityPub plugin for WordPress allows blogs or sites to have their own ActivityPub profile. (Previously, profiles were limited to individual authors). Automattic acquired the plugin in March 2023, from German developer Matthias Pfefferle who joined the company and has continued to improve it and add new features.
Practically speaking, this new ActivityPub support allows fediverse users to follow participating WordPress.com blogs on their chosen service, and comment on the content with those comments synced back to the blog – all without leaving their federated platform.
WordPress.com users can activate ActivityPub support under Settings > Discussion. They also have the option to use a custom domain for a shorter, more memorable identifier.
Once activated, ActivityPub support is available on new posts only – it is not retroactive. There may also be a delay in short delay for newly published posts appearing on federated platforms.
One WordPress.com user asked “When will WordPress Reader be able to follow Fediverse accounts?” This isn’t yet on the roadmap, based on the response from WordPress.com representatives, but may now be on their radar for future improvements to ActivityPub support.
This plugin and its addition to WordPress.com marks a significant expansion for the availability of ActivityPub interoperability, as support can now be effortlessly added for WordPress.com sites in addition to self-hosted sites.
In 2022, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg said Tumbler would add support for ActivityPub but this has not yet materialized and a current Tumblr employee said in July 2023, that they are still evaluating it but that it may cost more than it’s worth to the company. It may have become a lower priority, as Tumblr doesn’t appear to be in a position to embrace new projects that don’t generate cash flow.
Adoption of the ActivityPub protocol has been slow moving and has not yet delivered the avalanche of new users that Twitter/X has practically gift wrapped with its many unfavorable changes and, most recently, its laughable treatment of external links, which is an affront to the open web. Blogging pioneer and podcaster Dave Winer, who has watched social networks come and go, is not banking on ActivityPub and believes “the world will not coalesce behind ActivityPub” in its search for a standard.
For those who are already active on fediverse platforms that support ActivityPub, WordPress.com’s new features may be useful for ensuring that blogs can meaningfully participate there. It’s a quick and easy way to allow more people to follow WordPress sites and give their content further reach into the fediverse.
The future adoption of the ActivityPub protocol across more apps and platforms remains to be proven. In July, when Threads announced it would support the protocol, Mastodon CEO Eugen Rochko said in a blog post, “The fact that large platforms are adopting ActivityPub is not only validation of the movement towards decentralized social media but a path forward for people locked into these platforms to switch to better providers.” Although this wider network of ActivityPub support gives users more choice about the platforms they use to communicate, the evolution of the social media landscape is still volatile and unpredictable, leaving many people with the burden of hedging their bets by interacting across multiple networks while waiting for the dust to settle.