Installation

GNU social is intended to be easily installable in both a shared hosting environment or a private host with shell access, or just with PHP execution.

If you need help, contact us on IRC on the #social room in freenode or XMPP at xmpp:gnusocial@conference.bka.li

The recommended way of installing is to use Docker, as this simplifies configuration. GNU social is comprised of a variety of different services, such as a webserver, a PHP execution environment, a database, etc. You may choose to use all, some, or none of these services in Docker containers.

Pick one of the following installation methods:

Installation with Docker without shell access, such as in some shared hosting environments is possible by configuring social locally and copying the files over, however this is not a supported configuration.

Docker Installation

Installation with Docker

This installation method requires Docker and Docker Compose. Use bin/configure and pick docker, which enables all needed services as containers, or mixed which lets you pick which services you'd like to create containers for. This way you can use services in the host machine, which may be useful if your host already has a webserver, for instance.

If you elect to not use some service containers, check Instal without Docker with shell access for details on the configuration of each service.

Please remember that for the installation configure script to use docker, it is necessary that the executing user is in the docker group.

Prerequisites

In order to host your GNU social instance, you'll need a domain:

  • DNS domain
  • docker
  • docker-compose

If you don't have a fixed public IP, for local hosting or development, or if you're behind a NAT, use a dynamic DNS solutions. Search for GnuDIP host or dynamic dns. To use GnuDIP, clone, then inspect and run the ./install.sh script. This allows you to have a domain that dynamically points to your IP address.

If you want to install locally for development or experimenting purposes, you can use localhost as the root domain while configuring the installation. If you then specify a subdomain, don't forget to add it in the /etc/hosts file.

Configuring DNS

In order for your GNU social node to be accessible with your chosen hostname, you can create an A or AAAA DNS record, with your server's fixed IP v4 or v6 respectively in your DNS provider (normally, your domain registrar); the A record doesn't need to be at the root of your domain, meaning it's name can be a subdomain. For dynamic IPs, create a CNAME record pointing to the hostname you created with your chosen Dynamic DNS host. A CNAME cannot normally be created for a domain root, so you must use a subdomain. Note that some DNS providers provide 'CNAME flattening', in which case you can use your root domain.

Configuring TLS/SSL

You should configure a valid certificate and use TLS/SSL in most cases, one exception being wanting to use the Tor network.

The bin/configure script is capable of setting this up for you if you use a Docker container. Otherwise, using certbot and Let's Encrypt is recommended

There are multiple approaches to achieve this, among which are using your own (non-self) signed certificate, or using a proxy service capable of either proxying an HTTP connection to HTTPS (not recommended) or an HTTPS connection to HTTPS. For this approach, follow the instructions of your proxy service provider, but generally you'll use a self signed certificate, which the configuration script can generate.

TODO Mail server configuration (links below)

GNU social can be configured to send emails for various reasons. See mail server configuration. You'll need a certificate for your web domain and your mail domain, which may or may not be the same (if you use the same hostname for both, or a certificate valid for both).

TODO improve external certificate handling

If you prefer to not use Let's Encrypt, or the docker container, pick mixed and uncheck the certbot service or pick external.

Place your certificate in the folder docker/certbot/.files/live/$HOSTNAME/, where $HOSTNAME is the name where you want to host your node, such as social.yourdomain. Remember you also need a certificate for your mail server.

Without TLS/SSL

This is not recommended unless you know what you're doing. One exception is if you want your node to be used with the Tor network.

Pick 'mixed' and uncheck the certbot service to disable it, or external, if not using docker.

Configuration

TODO more detail

Run the bin/configure script and enter the information as asked.

This will generate all the required .env files and (optionally) a docker-compose.yaml file.

Permissions

The PHP docker container needs the GNU social folder to be owned by the group 82 (www-data).

Running

If you elected to use all or some containers, run docker-compose up from the root of the project (the folder where the .git folder is). In this form, the application can be stopped by pressing C-c (^C, CTRL + C); pressing it again will force the containers to stop immediately. However, this form will show you all logs, but in most cases, you won't want to see those all the time. For that, run docker-compose up -d from the same directory; The application can then be stopped with docker-compose down.

No Docker and shell installation

Prerequisites

The following software packages are required for this software to run correctly.

  • PHP 8.0+
  • Postgres 10+/MariaDB 10.2+
  • Web server
  • Mail server

Apache, lighttpd and nginx will all work. CGI mode is recommended and also some variant of 'suexec' (or a properly setup php-fpm pool) NOTE: mod_rewrite or its equivalent is extremely useful.

The mail server is used for sending notifications and password resets, among other things.

PHP modules

Your PHP installation must include the following PHP extensions for a functional setup of GNU social:

  • bcmath Arbitrary Precision Mathematics
  • ctype Locale support
  • curl Fetching files by HTTP.
  • exif Exchangeable image information.
  • gd Image manipulation (scaling).
  • gmp For Salmon signatures (part of OStatus)
  • iconv Locale support
  • intl Internationalization support (transliteration et al).
  • json For WebFinger lookups and more.
  • mbstring String manipulation
  • mysql The native driver for MariaDB connections.
  • opcache Improved PHP performance by precompilation
  • openssl (compiled in for Debian, enabled manually in Arch Linux)
  • pcre Perl Compatible Regular Expression
  • readline For interactive scripts
  • Session User sessions
  • SimpleXML XML parser
  • Tokenizer Reflection and annotations

NOTE: Some distros require manual enabling in the relevant php.ini for some modules, even if they're included in the main PHP package.

Better performance

For some functionality, you will also need the following extensions:

  • opcache Improves performance a lot. Included in PHP, must be enabled manually in php.ini for most distributions. Find and set at least: opcache.enable=1
  • mailparse Efficient parsing of email requires this extension. Submission by email or SMS-over-email uses this.
  • sphinx A client for the sphinx server, an alternative to MySQL or Postgresql fulltext search. You will also need a Sphinx server to serve the search queries.
  • gettext For multiple languages. Default on many PHP installs; will be emulated if not present.
  • exif For thumbnails to be properly oriented.

You may also experience better performance from your site if you configure a PHP cache/accelerator. Most distributions come with "opcache" support. Enable it in your php.ini where it is documented together with its settings.

Configuring DNS

In order for your GNU social node to be accessible with your chosen hostname, you can create an A or AAAA DNS record, with your server's fixed IP v4 or v6 respectively in your DNS provider (normally, your domain registrar); the A record doesn't need to be at the root of your domain, meaning it's name can be a subdomain. For dynamic IPs, create a CNAME record pointing to the hostname you created with your chosen Dynamic DNS host. A CNAME cannot normally be created for a domain root, so you must use a subdomain. Note that some DNS providers provide 'CNAME flattening', in which case you can use your root domain.

Configuring TLS/SSL

You should configure a valid certificate and use TLS/SSL in most cases, one exception being wanting to use the Tor network.

The bin/configure script is capable of setting this up for you if you use a Docker container. Otherwise, using certbot and Let's Encrypt is recommended

There are multiple approaches to achieve this, among which are using your own (non-self) signed certificate, or using a proxy service capable of either proxying an HTTP connection to HTTPS (not recommended) or an HTTPS connection to HTTPS. For this approach, follow the instructions of your proxy service provider, but generally you'll use a self signed certificate, which the configuration script can generate.

TODO Mail server configuration (links below)

GNU social can be configured to send emails for various reasons. See mail server configuration. You'll need a certificate for your web domain and your mail domain, which may or may not be the same (if you use the same hostname for both, or a certificate valid for both).

TODO improve external certificate handling

If you prefer to not use Let's Encrypt, or the docker container, pick mixed and uncheck the certbot service or pick external.

Place your certificate in the folder docker/certbot/.files/live/$HOSTNAME/, where $HOSTNAME is the name where you want to host your node, such as social.yourdomain. Remember you also need a certificate for your mail server.

Without TLS/SSL

This is not recommended unless you know what you're doing. One exception is if you want your node to be used with the Tor network.

Pick 'mixed' and uncheck the certbot service to disable it, or external, if not using docker.

Getting it up and running

Installing the basic GNU Social web component is relatively easy, especially if you've previously installed PHP packages.

  1. Download and unpack the release tarball or clone the git repository on your Web server. Usually a command like this will work:

    tar zxf gnusocial-*.tar.gz
    

...which will make a gnusocial-x.y.z directory in your current directory. (If you don't have shell access on your Web server, you may have to unpack the tarball on your local computer and FTP the files to the server. Checkout Instal without Docker with only web access)

  1. Move the tarball to a directory of your choosing in your Web root directory. Usually something like this will work:

    mv gnusocial-x.y.z /var/www/gnusocial
    

    This will often make your GNU social instance available in the gnusocial path of your server, like "http://example.net/gnusocial". "social" or "blog" might also be good path names. If you know how to configure virtual hosts on your web server, you can try setting up "http://social.example.net/" or the like.

    You need "rewrite" support on your webserver. This is used for "Fancy URL" support, which you can read more about further down in this document.

  2. Make your target directory writeable by the Web server, please note however that 'a+w' will give all users write access and securing the webserver is not within the scope of this document, but reading more on this subject is recommended.

    chmod a+w /var/www/gnusocial/
    

    On some systems, this will work as a more secure alternative:

    chgrp www-data /var/www/gnusocial/
    chmod g+w /var/www/gnusocial/
    

    If your Web server runs as another user besides "www-data", try that user's default group instead. As a last resort, you can create a new group like "gnusocial" and add the Web server's user to the group.

  3. Create a database to hold your site data. Something like this should work (you will be prompted for your database password):

    mysqladmin -u "root" -p create social
    

    Note that GNU social should have its own database; you should not share the database with another program. You can name it whatever you want, though.

    (If you don't have shell access to your server, you may need to use a tool like phpMyAdmin to create a database. Check your hosting service's documentation for how to create a new database.)

  4. Create a new database account that GNU social will use to access the database. If you have shell access, this will probably work from the MariaDB/PostgreSQL shell:

    GRANT ALL on social.*
    TO 'social'@'localhost'
    IDENTIFIED BY 'agoodpassword';
    

    You should change the user identifier 'social' and 'agoodpassword' to your preferred new database username and password. You may want to test logging in to MariaDB/PostgreSQL as this new user.

  5. Run bin/configure

TODO more detail

Run the bin/configure script and enter the information as asked.

This will generate all the required .env files and (optionally) a docker-compose.yaml file.

  1. You should now be able to navigate to your social site's main directory and see the "Public Timeline", which will probably be empty. You can now register new user, post some notices, edit your profile, etc.

Fancy URLs

By default, GNU social will use URLs that include the main PHP program's name in them. For example, a user's home profile might be found at either of these URLS depending on the webserver's configuration and capabilities:

https://social.example.net/index.php/fred
https://social.example.net/index.php?p=fred

It's possible to configure the software to use fancy URLs so it looks like this instead:

https://social.example.net/fred

These "fancy URLs" are more readable and memorable for users. To use fancy URLs, you must either have Apache 2.x with .htaccess enabled and mod_rewrite enabled, -OR- know how to configure "url redirection" in your server (like lighttpd or nginx).

TODO Add webserver sample configs

  1. See the instructions for each respective webserver software
  • For Apache, inspect the docs/webserver/htaccess.sample file and save it as .htaccess after making any necessary modifications. Our sample file is well commented.
  • For lighttpd, inspect the docs/webserver/lighttpd.conf.example file and apply the appropriate changes in your virtualhost configuration for lighttpd.
  • For nginx, inspect the docs/webserver/nginx.conf.sample file and apply the appropriate changes.
  • For other webservers, we gladly accept contributions of server configuration examples.
  1. Ensure your webserver is properly configured and has its settings applied (remember to reload/restart it)

Instal with Docker with web access

Instal without Docker with only web access

Queues and daemons

Some activities that GNU social needs to do, like broadcasting with OStatus or ActivityPub, SMS, XMPP messages and TwitterBridge operations, can be 'queued' and done by off-line bots instead.

Run the queue handler with:

php bin/console messenger:consume async --limit=10 --memory-limit=128M --time-limit=3600

GNU social uses Symfony, therefore the documentation on queues might be useful.

TODO queuing

OpportunisticQM plugin

This plugin is enabled by default. It tries its best to do background jobs during regular HTTP requests, like API or HTML pages calls.

Since queueing system is enabled by default, notices to be broadcasted will be stored, by default, into DB (table queue_item).

Whenever it has time, OpportunisticQM will try to handle some of them.

This is a good solution whether you:

  • have no access to command line (shared hosting)
  • do not want to deal with long-running PHP processes
  • run a low traffic GNU social instance

In other case, you really should consider enabling the queuedaemon for performance reasons. Background daemons are necessary anyway if you wish to use the Instant Messaging features such as communicating via XMPP.

Queue deamon

It's recommended you use the deamon, you must be able to run long-running offline processes, either on your main Web server or on another server you control. (Your other server will still need all the above prerequisites, with the exception of Apache.) Installing on a separate server is probably a good idea for high-volume sites.

  1. You'll need the "CLI" (command-line interface) version of PHP installed on whatever server you use.

    Modern PHP versions in some operating systems have disabled functions related to forking, which is required for daemons to operate. To make this work, make sure that your php-cli config (/etc/php5/cli/php.ini) does NOT have these functions listed under 'disable_functions':

    * pcntl_fork, pcntl_wait, pcntl_wifexited, pcntl_wexitstatus,
      pcntl_wifsignaled, pcntl_wtermsig
    

    Other recommended settings for optimal performance are: * mysqli.allow_persistent = On * mysqli.reconnect = On

  2. If you're using a separate server for queues, install StatusNet somewhere on the server. You don't need to worry about the .htaccess file, but make sure that your config.php file is close to, or identical to, your Web server's version.

  3. In your config.php files (on the server where you run the queue daemon), set the following variable:

    $config['queue']['daemon'] = true;
    

    You may also want to look at the 'Queues and Daemons' section in this file for more background processing options.

  4. On the queues server, run the command scripts/startdaemons.sh.

This will run the queue handlers:

  • queuedaemon.php - polls for queued items for inbox processing and pushing out to OStatus, SMS, XMPP, etc.
  • imdaemon.php - if an IM plugin is enabled (like XMPP)
  • other daemons, like TwitterBridge ones, that you may have enabled

These daemons will automatically restart in most cases of failure including memory leaks (if a memory_limit is set), but may still die or behave oddly if they lose connections to the XMPP or queue servers.

It may be a good idea to use a daemon-monitoring service, like 'monit', to check their status and keep them running.

All the daemons write their process IDs (pids) to /var/run/ by default. This can be useful for starting, stopping, and monitoring the daemons. If you are running multiple sites on the same machine, it will be necessary to avoid collisions of these PID files by setting a site- specific directory in config.php:

   $config['daemon']['piddir'] = __DIR__ . '/../run/';

It is also possible to use a STOMP server instead of our kind of hacky home-grown DB-based queue solution. This is strongly recommended for best response time, especially when using XMPP.

Themes

As of right now, your ability change the theme is limited to CSS stylesheets and some image files; you can't change the HTML output, like adding or removing menu items, without the help of a plugin.

You can choose a theme using the $config['site']['theme'] element in the config.php file. See below for details.

You can add your own theme by making a sub-directory of the 'theme' subdirectory with the name of your theme. Each theme can have the following files:

display.css: a CSS2 file for "default" styling for all browsers. logo.png: a logo image for the site. default-avatar-profile.png: a 96x96 pixel image to use as the avatar for users who don't upload their own. default-avatar-stream.png: Ditto, but 48x48. For streams of notices. default-avatar-mini.png: Ditto ditto, but 24x24. For subscriptions listing on profile pages.

You may want to start by copying the files from the default theme to your own directory.

Private

A GNU social node can be configured as "private", which means it will not federate with other nodes in the network. It is not a recommended method of using GNU social and we cannot at the current state of development guarantee that there are no leaks (what a public network sees as features, private sites will likely see as bugs).

Private nodes are however an easy way to easily setup collaboration and image sharing within a workgroup or a smaller community where federation is not a desired feature. Also, it is possible to change this setting and instantly gain full federation features.

Access to file attachments can also be restricted to logged-in users only:

  1. Add a directory outside the web root where your file uploads will be stored. Use this command as an initial guideline to create it:

    mkdir /var/www/gnusocial-files
    
  2. Make the file uploads directory writeable by the web server. An insecure way to do this is (to do it properly, read up on UNIX file permissions and configure your webserver accordingly):

    chmod a+x /var/www/gnusocial-files
    
  3. Tell GNU social to use this directory for file uploads. Add a line like this to your config.php:

    $config['attachments']['dir'] = '/var/www/gnusocial-files';
    

Backups

There is no built-in system for doing backups in GNU social. You can make backups of a working StatusNet system by backing up the database and the Web directory. To backup the database use mysqldump https://mariadb.com/kb/en/mariadb/mysqldump/ and to backup the Web directory, try tar.

Upgrading

Upgrading is strongly recommended to stay up to date with security fixes and new features. For instructions on how to upgrade GNU social code, please see the UPGRADE file.