Re: Why Publ won’t support magic auth links

In response to a Publ blog post, Kicks Condor writes:

One question, though—could the Atom feed list rel alternate versions of the feed? (That would have type application/atom+xml?) It also seems like rel self could have the non-authenticated version of the feed. It doesn’t make sense for credentials to be in that URL. These are possibly naive suggestions—apologies, if so. Again, fantastic write-up!

The problem is that it’s up to the sharing news reader to know which URL to use for the sharing, and there’s no way to control what URL the reader happens to use. I know that Feed On Feeds will use the URL for the actual subscription (since that’s the only source URL it tracks in the first place), and who knows what other readers with sharing features will do!

And changing the rel="self" URL has a different problem – some readers (again, such as Feed On Feeds) treat that as the canonical URL and will update their subscriptions to point to that URL instead, so setting rel="self" to the unauthenticated feed means most users will be unable to remain logged in.

Basically, it’s a tricky issue that has no right answer with the Atom spec as it currently exists. So if some other mechanism has to be designed, it might as well be done in a safe, unambiguous way from the beginning. If some other use case for magic auth links comes up I’ll reconsider implementing them, but at least for friends-only subscription access, the privacy risks are simply not worth it.

Authl: Yet another project I don’t have time for

So, I’ve started yet another web programming project, a generic authentication wrapper library for Python. Because I need something like this for Publ and just want to do it once.

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