No Docker and shell installation


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 "". "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 "" 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:

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

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)