Prosody

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Last modified on April 3, 2022

Prerequisites

Ports required: 5000, 5222, 5269, 5280, 5281

Table of Contents

XMPP is a fantastically simple protocol that’s usually used as a messenger. It’s highly extensible, better than IRC, lighter and more decentralized than Matrix, and normie social media like Telegram can’t hold a candle to it.

XMPP is so decentralized and extensible that there are many different XMPP servers. Here, let’s set up a Prosody XMPP server.

Installation

To install Prosody, first add the official Prosody repositories for Debian:

# Install extrepo if you already haven't
apt install extrepo
extrepo enable prosody
apt update

Then, install Prosody:

apt install prosody

Configuration

The Prosody configuration file is in /etc/prosody/prosody.cfg.lua. To set it all up, we will be changing several things.

Setting Admins

Let’s go ahead and set who our admin(s) will be. Find the line that says admins = { } and to this we can specify one or more server admins.

-- To add one admin:
admins = { "admin@example.org" }

-- We can add more than one by separating them by commas. (This file is written in Lua.)
admins = { "admin1@example.org", "admin2@example.org" }

Note that we have not created these accounts yet, we will do this below.

Set the Server URL

Find the line VirtualHost "localhost" and replace localhost with your domain. In our case, we will have VirtualHost "example.org"

Database Setup

Prosody includes the internal and sql storage back-ends by default. If you wish to run Prosody with PostgreSQL, begin by installing the PostgreSQL and the corresponding Lua library:

apt install postgresql lua-dbi-postgresql

Then start the daemon:

systemctl restart postgresql

Now create a user named prosody to manage your database:

su -c "createuser --pwprompt prosody" postgres

And finally, create the actual database:

su -c "psql -c 'CREATE DATABASE prosody OWNER prosody;'" postgres

Finally, in /etc/prosody/prosody.cfg.lua, edit the following lines:

storage = "sql"

sql = {
    driver = "PostgreSQL",
    database = "prosody",
    username = "prosody",
    password = "password",
    host = "localhost"
}

Message Archive Management (Chat History)

By default, Prosody will send out messages received only to the first available clients. That means that if you have your desktop client turned off and your cell phone receives a message, it will not be available to the desktop client when you start it.

While this may be preferred in some cases, enable the mam module (Message Archive Management) to have the server hold on messages and sync them to all clients.

Within the modules_enabled block, you can uncomment the mam line to enable it:

modules_enabled = {
...
            "mam"; -- Store recent messages to allow multi-device synchronization
...
}

You can see other settings for this module here. Like, for example, how long a server should hold on to message histories for syncing.

Note also that Prosody comes with the carbons activated module by default, which is related. This will send received messages to all active clients (your phone and desktop), although it will not save messages like MAM for clients not online or to be added later.

Voice and Video Calling

Prosody supports XMPP voice and video calls through an external TURN and STUN server.

First, follow the guide on installing and setting up coturn, setting only a shared secret for authentication.

Then, uncomment the turn_external module in the modules section in prosody.cfg.lua.

"turn_external";

Finally, specify the host and credentials lower in the config:

-- Specify the address of the TURN service (you may use the same domain as XMPP)
turn_external_host = "turn.example.org"

-- This secret must be set to the same value in both Prosody and the TURN server
turn_external_secret = "your shared secret"

Enable Registration

If you want to run a general public XMPP server, you can allow anyone to create an account by changing the following in /etc/prosody/prosody.cfg.lua:

allow_registration = true

Abuse/Admin Contact Info

Prosody allows you to set and publish a list of contacts for any abuse or admin complaints your server may get. This is not essential for a functioning server, but you may want to set this if you plan on running a public server.

contact info = {
    -- You can specify email addresses as well as XMPP addresses.
    abuse = { "xmpp:admin@example.org", "mailto:admin@example.org" };
    admin = { "xmpp:admin@example.org", "mailto:admin@example.org" };
}

Components

Prosody makes use of various “components”, all hosted through separate domains/subdomains of your main server, to host a variety of useful features to make your XMPP experience as complete as possible.

Multi-User Chats

Most people will probably want the ability to have chats with more than two users. This is easily enough to enable. In the config file, add the following:

Component "chat.example.org" "muc"

    -- This muc_mam module keeps backups of multi-user chats
    modules_enabled = { "muc_mam" }
    
    -- Restrict room creation to a specific set of users
    restrict_room_creation = "admin"

On the first line, you must have a separate subdomain for your multi-user chats. The chat. subdomain is used here, but some servers use muc.. Anything is possible.

The restrict_room_creation line important because it prevents non-admins from creating and squatting rooms on your server. The only situation where you might not want that is if you intend to open a general public chat system for people you don’t know.

Read more about the muc plugin on the Prosody documentation page here.

File sharing

With this we can bring XMPP to the level of other popular instant messaging applications like Matrix and WhatsApp. It is extremely easy to setup. This part is optional, but it can make XMPP more normie-friendly if you plan on moving family members and friends over to XMPP.

Add the following line to you prosody config file to enable file uploads:

Component "upload.example.org" "http_file_share"

A big concern with file sharing is large files, seeing as all files shared over XMPP will be stored on your server. This can become a problem when many (and large) files are being shared. We can put a cap on large files by adding the following line to our config:

http_file_share_size_limit = 20971520

This puts a 20MB cap on all files being shared. The value is specified in bytes. You can also specify after how long files should be deleted by adding the following line:

http_file_share_expire_after = 60 * 60 * 24 * 7

The value is specified in seconds. The above line will make prosody delete files after a week.

Proxy Support

This helps with file transfers for devices behind a NAT, and unless you are using XMPP in a LAN, you probably need this. Enable the proxy by adding the following line to the config:

Component "proxy.example.org" "proxy65"

At this point, file sharing is now setup and ready for pretty much all use cases.

Pub-Sub Support

Publish-Subscribe (also known as Pubsub) is a simple protocol that allows data to be published to “nodes”; Think of these as mini-blogs that can be published over XMPP. New posts on these nodes will be automatically pushed to subscribers directly, unlike RSS which requires the user to poll the feed itself.

To setup a Pubsub component, add the following lines to your Prosody config:

Component "pubsub.example.org" "pubsub"

Having a Pubsub component will allow your server to participate in the wider XMPP Pubsub social network, mainly utilized by the Movim client.

Certificates

Obviously, we want to have client-to-server and server-to-server encryption. We can use Certbot to generate certificates and use a convenient prosodyctl command to import them.

For added security, begin by installing the lua-unbound library for DNS queries:

apt install lua-unbound

Run the following certbot command. Include the --nginx if you also have an NGINX server running.

certbot -d example.org --nginx

It’s essential to obtain any other certificates for additional services on your server. For example, here are two certificates for subdomains hosting multi-user chats, file sharing, proxy and a Pub-Sub service respectively:

certbot -d chat.example.org --nginx
certbot -d uploads.example.org --nginx
certbot -d proxy.example.org --nginx
certbot -d pubsub.example.org --nginx

Once you have all your certificates for encryption, run the following to import them into Prosody:

prosodyctl --root cert import /etc/letsencrypt/live/

You can re-run the prosodyctl --root cert import command again when you need to renew or change certificates. It will always attempt to get the latest certificates needed by your current configuration in /etc/prosody/prosody.cfg.lua, and will inform you if it can’t access them.

Note that you might get an error that a certificate has not been found if your muc subdomain and your main domain share a certificate. It should still work, this is just notifying you that no specific certificate for the subdomain.

Note: The above command will need to be rerun when certificates are renewed. You may want to create a cronjob to have this done automatically.

Included Modules

Prosody includes a variety of modules out of the box to enable and configure.

Bosh and Websockets

These two modules allow web-based clients to interface with your server. Begin by installing the required bitop library:

apt install lua-bitop

Then enable the module under modules_enabled:

modules_enabled = {
...
        "bosh"; -- Enable BOSH clients, aka "Jabber over HTTP"
        "websocket"; -- XMPP over WebSockets
...
}

Tombstones

This module leaves a “tombstone” of a users account after it is deleted. This makes it impossible for another user to register an account and impersonate the original user and the original account was deleted.

modules_enabled = {
...
        "tombstones"; -- Prevent registration of deleted accounts
...
}

Mimicking

Because unicode is prone to similarly-looking characters that can be used to spoof usernames, this module helps equate these and prevent people from making similar usernames. Simply enable it in /etc/prosody/prosody.cfg.lua:

modules_enabled = {
...
        "mimicking"; -- Prevent address spoofing
...
}

To send announcements

Community Modules

Prosody configuration can go far beyond the included modules. There are many community modules, and Prosody comes with a community module installer built-in on version 0.12 and above.

To install community modules, you need to first install Luarocks:

apt install luarocks

Push Notifications

Push notifications are especially useful for iOS devices that require push support to continually receive notifications. Otherwise iOS users would need to keep their XMPP client constantly in the foreground.

Begin by enabling the smacks module, to ensure full compatibility:

modules_enabled = {
...
            "smacks"; -- Stream management and resumption (XEP-0198)
...
}

Then install the mod_cloud_notify and mod_cloud_notify_extensions modules:

prosodyctl install --server=https://modules.prosody.im/rocks/ mod_cloud_notify
prosodyctl install --server=https://modules.prosody.im/rocks/ mod_cloud_notify_extensions

The cloud_notify_extensions module requires the luaossl package to support encrypted push notifications, so make sure to install this package on Debian:

apt install lua-luaossl

Now simply enable the modules in modules_enabled like any other module:

modules_enabled = {
...
            "cloud_notify";
            "cloud_notify_extensions";
...
}

MUC Avatar/Vcard Support

If you want users to be able to publish avatars in group chats (without having to add each other as contacts), then install this community module and enable it under your muc component:

prosodyctl install --server=https://modules.prosody.im/rocks/ mod_vcard_muc
Component "chat.example.org" "muc"
...
    modules_enabled = { "muc_mam", "vcard_muc" }
...

Pubsub RSS Feed Mirroring

If you’ve setup a Pubsub component, you can enable a community module to automatically grab RSS feeds and publish their contents to a Pubsub node of your choosing. Simply install the community module:

prosodyctl install --server=https://modules.prosody.im/rocks/ mod_pubsub_feeds

And enable it under the Pubsub component:

Component "pubsub.example.org" "pubsub"

-- Enable the module here
modules_enabled = { "pubsub_feeds" }

feeds = {
  -- The part before = is used as PubSub node
  denshiblog = "https://denshi.org/index.xml";
  lukesmith = "https://lukesmith.xyz/index.xml";
  planet_jabber = "https://planet.jabber.org/atom.xml";
  prosody_blog = "https://blog.prosody.im/feed/atom.xml";
}

-- You can also set a custom time interval for when to grab new RSS content
-- (default is 900 seconds, 15 minutes)
feed_pull_interval_seconds = 900

Granting Ownership on Module-Created Pubsub Nodes

By default, Pubsub nodes created by the pubsub_feeds module will not be owned by anyone, not even the server admin. To change this, use the Prosody shell to run a lua command using util.pubsub granting you ownership:

## Enter the Prosody shell
prosodyctl shell
-- Run the command with the > at the beginning
>prosody.hosts["pubsub.example.org"].modules.pubsub.service:set_affiliation("node_name",true,"user@example.org","owner")

Creating users/admins manually

Let’s manually create the admin user we prepared for above. Note that you can indeed do this in your XMPP client if you have not disabled registration, but this is how it is done on the command line:

prosodyctl adduser admin@example.org

This will prompt you to create a password as well.

Make changes active

With any system service, use systemctl reload or systemctl restart to make the new settings active:

systemctl restart prosody

Using your Server

Once your server is set up, you just need an XMPP client to use your new and secure chat system. See the XMPP client list for a comprehensive list of clients and their features.