Earlier this week, the internet almost got ruined by one angry programmer who broke a whole mess of the software the internet runs on by deleting one simple program consisting of 11 lines of code.
Though everything is OK now. But it’s a strange case that involves the copyright lawyers, a petulant developer(s), and behind-the-scenes cover looking into how tech titans like Facebook, Netflix and Spotify make the sausage that we all enjoy in the Internet.
It all started one developer named Azer Koçulu, who wrote an unusual programming code called Kik, an extension for the popular programming language Node.js. Koçulu and put his Kik module up on NPM, essentially an App Store for Node.js programmers, all as a free downloads for developers to work into their apps at their leisure anytime.
Now what about the other Kik (The popular social network)
Bearing the same name with Kik, the popular social network immediately took notice of this and sent Koçulu an email requesting that he change the name of his new module before it goes viral among people. By Koçulu’s own admission in a blog post earlier, Kik’s initial request was seen reasonable. Still, Koçulu wouldn’t budge with the response.
“When I started coding Kik, I didn’t know there is a company with same name in existence. And I didn’t want to let a company force me to change the name of it,”
Even to the fact that Kik did have copyright on its side, Koçulu says that NPM CEO Isaac Schlueter took away his ownership right of the module in question without asking.
Koçulu being upset, announced in the blog entry that he was removing his Kik from NPM entirely — as well as all of his other code.
It’s likely that nobody would have noticed all this happenings— except that Koçulu is also the person who created a very basic, very crazy, but very popular NPM module called “npm left-pad.” It’s just 11 lines long and doesn’t actually do anything extraordinary, but it’s been downloaded over 575,000 times on the internet. The moment it disappeared, developers on Reddit, Twitter, and elsewhere definitely took notice of it.
A house of cards
This is where things now got sticky. A module like npm left-pad is basically a shortcut and makes things easier for developers so they don’t have to write a whole bunch of basic code from scratch again. Here is the in thing, If a developer calls on an NPM module, it’s basically shorthand attribute will put this code in later mode and a software compiler will just download the code when the time is right. Most times, this works perfectly fine. But sometimes, the software ends up relying on what’s essentially a house of cards: One Node.js module calls on another, calls on another, calls on another. Again, usually it works fine — right up until npm left-pad finally taken offline.
The Popular software projects like Babel, which helps tech giants like Facebook, Spotify and Netflix, run codes faster as well as React, which helps developers build better interfaces for users, were all of a sudden broken and no more work could be done with them. Immediately, over a thousand software projects were affected leaving everyone behind the internet scene worried, according to the npm blog.
On fixing the problem, it required that programmers sift through all of those dependencies, making sure that absolutely nothing relied on that one silly 11-line bit of code again.
Leading to a mass outcry from developers all over the world, the NPM was forced to “un-un-publish” the code in question, handing it over to a new owner to be in charge.
With all said and done, the storm is over now and npm left-pad is back online. But the wounds it has caused are still deeply felt among software developers:
Tagged: Broken internet