Federation Server

When testing the bridge server, we added a memo to the transaction in order to identify what customer account to credit. However, other people and organizations using DigitalBits might not know they need to do that. How do they find out?

The DigitalBits federation protocol allows you to convert a human-readable address like amy*your_org.com[1] to an account ID. It also includes information about what should be in a transaction’s memo. When sending a payment, you contact a federation server first to determine what DigitalBits account ID to pay. Luckily, the bridge server does this for you.

Payment flow diagram

DigitalBits.io provides a prebuilt federation server that can hook into an existing user database, but you can also write your own.

Create a Database

The DigitalBits federation server is designed to connect to any existing SQL database you might have with a list of account names. It essentially translates a federation request into a SQL query. The server supports MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite3.

At a minimum, your database should have a table with a column identifying the name to use for each account record.[2] In your existing system, you might have a table named accounts that looks something like:

id first_name last_name friendly_id
1 Tunde Adebayo tunde_adebayo
2 Amy Smith amy_smith
3 Jack Brown jack_brown
4 Steintór Jákupsson steintor_jakupsson
5 Sneha Kapoor sneha_kapoor

Where Tunde’s DigitalBits address would be tunde_adebayo*your_org.com.

Download and Configure Federation Server

Next, download the latest federation server for your platform. You can select a release version and find the package in the Release Assets. Install the executable anywhere you like. In the same directory, create a file named federation.cfg. This will store the configuration for the server. It should look something like:

port = 8002

type = "mysql" # Or "postgres" or "sqlite3"
dsn = "dbuser:dbpassword@/internal_accounts"

federation = "SELECT 'GAIGZHHWK3REZQPLQX5DNUN4A32CSEONTU6CMDBO7GDWLPSXZDSYA4BU' as id, friendly_id as memo, 'text' as memo_type FROM accounts WHERE friendly_id = ? AND ? = 'your_org.com'"
reverse-federation = "SELECT friendly_id, '' as domain FROM accounts WHERE ? = ''"

# The federation server must be available via HTTPS. Specify your SSL
# certificate and key here. If the server is behind a proxy or load balancer
# that implements HTTPS, you can omit this section.
certificate-file = "server.crt"
private-key-file = "server.key"

Make sure to update the database connection information with the proper credentials and name for your database. Also update the value of domain in the federation query to match your actual domain instead of your_org.com.

The federation query is a SQL query that should return the columns id, memo, and memo_type when supplied with the two parts of a DigitalBits address, e.g. tunde_adeboyo and your_org.com for the address tunde_adebayo*your_org.com.

Since we are mapping all addresses to our base account, we always return the base account ID for id. As in the first section, we want the account’s friendly_id as a text memo.

The reverse-federation query is required, but because all customer accounts map to a single DigitalBits account in our design, we need to make sure this query always returns no rows.

Now run the server! (Unlike the bridge server, there’s there no custom database to migrate.)


Update DigitalBits.toml

Finally, others have to know the URL of your federation server. The digitalbits.toml file is publicly available file where others can find information about your DigitalBits integration. It should always be stored at:

https://[YOUR DOMAIN]/.well-known/digitalbits.toml

It can list all sorts of properties, but the one we care about now is the URL for your federation server. Your digitalbits.toml file should look something like:

FEDERATION_SERVER = "https://www.your_org.com:8002/federation"

The actual URL for your federation server can be anything you like—it can be at your www subdomain but on a different path, it can be at a different port, or it can be on a different domain entirely. However, it must be available via HTTPS with a valid SSL certificate.[3]

Send a Federation request

Test out your federation server by sending an HTTP request:

curl "https://www.your_org.com:8002/federation?q=tunde_adebayo*your_org.com&type=name"
var request = require('request');

  url: 'https://www.your_org.com:8002/federation',
  qs: {
    q: 'tunde_adebayo*your_org.com',
    type: 'name'
}, function(error, response, body) {
import org.apache.http.HttpEntity;
import org.apache.http.HttpResponse;
import org.apache.http.client.HttpClient;
import org.apache.http.client.methods.HttpGet;
import org.apache.http.impl.client.HttpClients;
import org.apache.http.util.EntityUtils;
import org.apache.http.client.utils.URIBuilder;
import java.net.URI;

class FederationRequest {
  public static void main(String [] args) throws Exception {
    URI federationUri = new URIBuilder("https://www.your_org.com:8002/federation")
      .addParameter("q", "tunde_adebayo*your_org.com")
      .addParameter("type", "name")

    HttpGet federationRequest = new HttpGet(federationUri);
    HttpClient httpClient = HttpClients.createDefault();
    HttpResponse response = httpClient.execute(federationRequest);
    HttpEntity entity = response.getEntity();
    if (entity != null) {
      String body =  EntityUtils.toString(entity);

You should get a response like:

  "digitalbits_address": "tunde_adebayo*your_org.com",
  "memo_type": "text",
  "memo": "tunde_adebayo"

  1. Federated addresses use an * to separate the username and domain so that your usernames can be e-mail addresses, like amy@gmail.com*your_org.com. ↩︎

  2. If you want your federation server to cover multiple domains, you’ll need a column to store the domains as well. ↩︎

  3. Requiring that public services are available via SSL helps keep things secure. While testing, you can get free certificates from http://letsencrypt.org. You can also generate your own self-signed certificates, but you must add them to all the computers in your tests. ↩︎

Edit this doc in GitHub


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