Re: [webfinger] Vision for Webfinger - what are we doing?

Melvin Carvalho <> Wed, 16 October 2013 11:28 UTC

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Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 13:28:20 +0200
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From: Melvin Carvalho <>
To: Eric Mill <>
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Subject: Re: [webfinger] Vision for Webfinger - what are we doing?
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On 15 October 2013 05:21, Eric Mill <> wrote:

> Hey all,
> I was at a hackathon <> today,
> and spent the day working on Webfinger libraries for Sinatra<>and
> Jekyll <>. It was really
> productive, but -- at the end of the day, a reporter was there asking
> everybody questions about their projects.
> When he asked what Webfinger was for, I realized that the original
> easy-to-communicate killer app for Webfinger, easing universal login
> through OpenID, was<>
> dead <>. The only thing I could think to say was
> "Remember OpenID? Before it died? Well, this is a piece of the puzzle to
> putting something like that back together again."
> That didn't feel like a very impressive answer. So, now that OpenID is
> dead, what's the one line explanation for why Webfinger is important?
> What's the path forward to making Webfinger something people are
> incentivized to support?
> Should we be pushing really hard to resuscitate OpenID via OpenID Connect?
> Do we just need to wait for internal lobbying inside of
> Google/Microsoft/Twitter/etc to pay off in some announcement? I know
> Webfinger supports more than email lookup -- is there some particular
> killer app people were envisioning when they lobbied for that feature?
> I'm so happy there's finally an RFC, after so many years. I recognize how
> much work was put in to make that happen, and this shouldn't be taken as a
> criticism of anyone. I just want to know what others see for the future of
> Webfinger, and what I should do next.

When Brad created the great grand father of OpenID, codename Yadis, it
actually had a web based discovery system called FOAF.  Even though FOAF
got to a certain degree of popularity (several million users) users there
was a point in time when it became less popular.  We dont really know the
reason for this, but people say that the XML serialization was unwieldy,
there was a lot of complexity baked in (e.g. OWL) and there was no
standardization of privacy.

Whatever the reason, it simply fell out of fashion, particularly on the
west coast, and a new system, XRD was created as a rival.  In truth XRD and
FOAF data models (RDF) were very similar (both follow the subject /
property / value model), but they were developed independently.  XRD became
the basis of both OpenID and Webfinger.  Both FOAF and XRD now have JSON
serializations which is where we get today's JRD, which I think many
developers prefer.

Webfinger was originally conceived to get an XRD/JRD for an email address,
but somewhere along the way, with multiple authors it become more generic
as a general purpose discovery system, much like the technology behind
FOAF.  In fact today the email use case (mailto:) is no longer is part of
the core, and we have discovery on the new URI scheme acct: which Eran put
in before he left.  There's many theories on why acct: was invented, but
imho, it's because Eran worked out that an email address is the OBJECT of a
data structure and not the SUBJECT, so we were missing a subject.  Since
XRD has no query language, a term to create a subject needed to be
created.  Hence we have acct:

The 5 years of discussion of webfinger mirror quite closely the first 5
years of discussion RDF (aka the semantic web aka web of data aka Linked
Data).  The path towards a model where you have entities as URIs and key
value pairs linked to them seems quite similar.

However, as of today, the world is slightly split by two systems that do
more or less the same thing.  Sadly, they are not 100% compatible with each
other at this time, RDF is a more powerful version of XRD, and I would say
probably has more people developing it and adoption, particularly at
enterprise level.

Things have move slightly closer together over time, and maybe the dream
one day is to have a giant web based discovery system with webfinger being
one important aspect, particularly for finding information on email
addresses.  We'll have to wait and see!

> -- Eric
> --
> | @konklone <>
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> webfinger mailing list