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Facebook really couldn't have been more generous to this guy. He's really milking the free publicity, too, with all the talk of this being the end of the road (which clearly it won't be, since there's nothing to stop him from continuing work using an alternate account). I can't even imagine what Facebook was thinking, they must have known that attempting to shut this down would backfire.

If I were Facebook and I really didn't want this extension or others like it to stay afloat, my approach would be simple... hire one guy whose only job is to monitor new releases of these extensions, and then make minor structural changes to the Facebook site that break them as soon as they're out. Become the mouse in a game of cat and mouse. When the extension keeps breaking within a day or two of each release, users would get fed up and stop using it, the devs would get overwhelmed with bug reports and complaints, and they'd all die slow, quiet deaths.

"...there's nothing to stop him from continuing work using an alternate account..."

Actually, there is. He's been informed by Facebook that they have revoked his right to use their site, which is their right. Any update that he issues to to the plugin would be solid evidence that he had been back on Facebook. In a US legal system that regularly bows to the will of large corporations, he could not only be sued, but also charged with a crime under the CFAA (unauthorized access) should he simply open another account.

I don't see why other people can't test his software for him.

I'd do it. FB Purity is the only thing keeping me on Facebook, so I have no qualms about risking my account for it. I'm gone as soon as it stops working anyway.

If he open sources the project, it would be interesting.

Inversion: until he open-sources it, I am not interested in his plight in the slightest.

seems fair. Refuse to use common sense until someone open sources years of work.

If you're not trying to be civil and respectful, please try. If you are trying, please try harder. Thanks.

He is being perfectly civil. He has succinctly stated a position that you find unpleasant, but that is all. It is not considered "civil" in the non-software world to suggest that someone should give away their possessions before you care about bad things happening to them.

If FB Purity is there for the good of humanity, great; open it up and let the community keep going. But why should I care if it's a primarily financial venture, and someone built their house on quicksand? Building a business on FB by removing new FB features is not bright.

But hes not building a business on FB, hes building a business on browsers to change the way they display FB. This reach alone makes me feel like you're being a bit unreasonable, and the open source demands kind of confirm it.

It was the snark and sarcasm that I was taking issue with. I don't have a strong opinion about the position itself. It's a good point cheapened by coarse delivery. We can do better here.

I don't use this extension, but I just looked at the xpi and crx versions and they are both just javascript, and I didn't find any license mentioned anywhere. So if you believe djb, you can distribute the source + patches until the author explicitly states otherwise.

the source code, clearly has a copyright notice. it is not ok to do what you are suggesting.

To be clear, I wasn't suggesting anyone do anything. I was noting that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/License-free_software is open to various interpretations regarding distribution of patches, etc (djb's interpretation being one example).

Im not sure about the law in the USA, but in Germany I would beg to differ. Here, if you run a service, you do NOT have the right to arbitrarily reject users. The bigger your userbase is, the less you have that right. So as long as the developer acts within the law, he could demand access to Facebook.

US courts have been very liberal in their interpretation of the CFAA. I strongly disagree with it, and I believe it is downright dangerous, but this is the current legal environment in the US. Perhaps he should move to Germany. Stuff like this probably wouldn't happen there either:


IANAL, but in general a business in the US can deny service to anyone as long as they are not in violation of very specific civil rights protections.

Can you cite/link the law that specifies a foreign company has to provide a service to a German citizen on demand even if that persons fails to comply with the ToS?

> in Germany ... if you run a service, you do NOT have the right to arbitrarily reject users

[citation needed]

No, seriously, I'm having a hard time believing this.

What is so hard to believe about this?

Capitalism is not a force of nature. Countries have an enormous amount of legislation in place to ensure companies can do business, and invest huge amounts of money in services supporting the private sector (infrastructure, education, etc).

These companies wield a tremendous amount of social power, especially services like Facebook. There's nothing odd about holding these companies to certain standards and laws that ensure they can not negatively influence the civil society from which they profit so much. Being allowed to refuse service to the very people that enable your business to exist is a privilege, not a right, and it comes with restrictions.

This is quite normal in most countries outside the US.

>What is so hard to believe about this?

That someone who owns a company does not have authority in who they will and will not do business with?

See Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many of the act's opponents were dyed-in-the-wool racists and bigots, and the rest of us can be glad that they lost. But there were some others who opposed the act because they understood that a slippery slope was being created.

Those are the limits most people are familiar with. They're reasonable and expected but even in the US businesses have 'the right to refuse service to anyone.' They work in the same way that you can fire someone, but you can't fire someone for being black, or a woman.

The OP claimed that that did not exist at all in Germany.

It certainly is illegal in France. Refusing to sell without a valid reason is an exception to contract liberty since the sixties (article L. 122-1 du code de la consommation). The former situation was seen as biased in favor of the sellers.

Whether alleged violation of the user term is a valid reason is open to questions. Without going to court, I strongly doubt it is.

Facebook being a human right would be very interesting to read about. I wonder if one could appeal account terminations to ICANN.

No dress codes at bars?

A dress code isn't (at least by definition) arbitrarily, or arbitrarily applied.

> but in Germany I would beg to differ. Here, if you run a service, you do NOT have the right to arbitrarily reject users.

Sure you have. It's called 'virtuelles Hausverbot' and heise.de makes heavy use of it for their forums.

Most prominent case: Guenther Freiherr v. Gravenreuth was legally banned from heise.de forums with this instrument.

Here's the german wikipedia article: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtuelles_Hausverbot

Have you read the article you link to? It explicitely says that you can NOT arbitrarily reject users. ("ein Hausverbot nicht willkürlich ausgeübt werden dürfe")

The bans by Heise where not arbitrarily.

So isn't this ban by facebook. The guy is acting against their TOS he has accepted.

Ah.The dots connect...this gives me a bit of insight into an earlier post on HN about facebook in Germany being forced to allow pseudonyms.

Ah, Germany... what a preeminently sensible country. :)

Just open source it.

Haha, this is ridiculous.

"Facebook really couldn't have been more generous to this guy." Yes they could have. They could have not banned him for building a browser extension.

I think you missed the point entirely. Facebook have just become his marketing department.

Agreed. Until today I had never heard of FB Purity. Thanks for the suggestion, Facebook.

Exactly. I hadn't heard of this, but it's wonderful.

A marketing dept can't do much for a product that is a about to die.

This is actually the solution Facebook has taken. I'm an avid FB Purity user and almost every single update is a workaround for minor code changes on the site that serve no purpose except to break FB Purity.

Maybe there wasn't one guy whose full time job was to break FB Purity, but it was definitely one of their goals.

Why does Facebook even care? Most of the stuff the extension does is covered by AdBlock anyway.

As someone who's done a lot of data mining, I'm always surprised to find that sites with lots of data don't do this. Your output generator just needs to randomize some class names and throw a couple of pointless elements around the place to make it MUCH more difficult.

There's one site I've scraped that has code like this: <div class="name"><span class="first_name">...</span> <span class="last_name">...</span></div><div class="street_address">...</div>

How is this marginally difficult to parse?

A CSS3 selector could easily just get this - in jQuery:

$('div span').attr('class')

will easily give you the expression that returns all the classnames - easily mapped to whatever output you want.

He was actually giving example of page that is ridiculous easy to mine.

You really think it's a good idea for a company to be that petty and passive-aggressive to its users?

The only way it would hurt the company is if someone would let the world know about their motives. But even that would be easy to deny.

You know, this appears to be pretty much what they do already. It would shock nobody to find they'd hired some poor sod for just this purpose.

They are already doing this even for people who use it legally.

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