Social Web WG - Account Systems and Webfinger Feedback

Seeking some feedback, so I’m posting it here as well. (

Hello, Ben Roberts from the Social Web Working Group and Social Web Incubator Community Group and the W3C (that second one is open to the public if you are interested in joining). I was looking for some feedback.

In yesterday’s Social Web Incubator Community Group telcon, I brought up the issue of WebFinger. The current implementations have had some differences in how they are implemented. Also there are several limitations to it. Its important to investigate what people are doing and what changes they would be open to.

First of all, I would appreciate some feedback about what exactly your project supports, and second I would like to guage interest in implementing some extensions to it. Anything written to replace it would hopefully still support the existing account structure.


  • What characters do you allow in User Names on your local system?

  • What do you allow for federated user accounts. For example some systems do not let you enter a period in the username, but will accept those that do when federating. Do you allow foreign characters in your account names? Emoji?

  • What do you allow after the @ sign in remote accounts? Is it only domains? (your software must be installed at the root domain) subdirs? subdomains (I would assume everyone does, but best to check).

  • And again, what do you support for federated accounts. Some systems already allow installs in to subdirectories. If you do support subdirs, how do you reconcile this with webfinger lookup? Is it just looking for the .well-know directory inside of that directory?

My current line of thinking is to extend webfinger with a simpler discovery mechanism such as maybe looking up just fetching template at the location given (haven’t determined that part yet). One of the goals of this is to support subdirectory installs and single user domains, or really just plain URLs, but there has to be a mapping between a URL and an account identifier. This creates a few more questions

  • Do you use @ to refer to local users on the system?

  • If you do this do you allow the period in usernames? This is particularly important as the current ideal is to allow blank usernames for URLs so rather than trying to cram some magic word in to the username section.

  • What would be your level of difficulty with such a system?

  • What do you think of extending the domain section to actually be a full url path so

  • Any other feedback or issues you would like to bring up with the functionality and use of webfinger?

Thank you in advance for any response you give, all feedback is appreciated.

[mod: edit for readability, as the questions were hard to discern.]