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October 17th, 2013

Facebook Compromises With Social Fixer

Sometimes the community can win. Hordes of people became upset when Facebook began playing hardball with Matt Kruse and the browser extension he develops. Called Social Fixer, it allows for changing the look and feel of the news feed in Facebook. Everything takes place in the browser of the user and only the user’s experience is modified. This should be a classic case of “no harm, no foul.”

Kruse likes Facebook, which is what prompted him to build Social Fixer from the start. He purposely stayed away from building any ad blocking capabilities into the program because he didn’t want his project to be a problem for Facebook and he understood the site depends on ad revenue to pay the bills and keep Mr. Zuckerberg rich. He only wanted to offer an option for those who weren’t always happy with the constantly changing look of the social network. However, when ads began appearing in the news feed as “sponsored posts” or such, he had a change of heart and incorporated the ability to remove this particular intrusion.

thumbs_up_thumbWe’ve talked about this before. First Facebook took down Social Fixer’s page, which was how he stayed in touch with his users. There are a lot of them. The program has been downloaded over a million times, for free, offered on a donate-if-you-like basis. Kruse isn’t in danger of becoming wealthy, but there’s probably enough income here to help pay some of the household bills.

After taking away the page, Facebook began demanding changes be made to Social Fixer itself–stop filtering ads, get rid of the friends tracker, etc. Basically, they wanted him to remove many of the program’s most useful features. Reluctantly, a week or so ago he publicly told them he would do so. He didn’t want to get sued and he did want to continue developing his baby.

Then, last Friday he reported on the Social Fixer site that Facebook had agreed to compromise on several key issues, that Social Fixer won’t be as damaged as first thought. Friend tracker still has to go, but tabbed posts can stay. So can post filtering, which might be used to get rid of sponsored posts, which seems a bit strange.

Kruse is unsure why Facebook agreed to compromise, but muses it might be because his user base made enough noise:

“Thank you for your patience as I work through this, and your support in the form of comments, shares, blog posts, tweets, etc. I have to think that those things are part of what influenced Facebook’s decision. That’s awesome.”

Although offered for free, Social Fixer is proprietary software. In the same article, Kruse explains why he hasn’t open sourced his project:

“…open sourcing it may introduce security and privacy concerns, and in the end it still needs to be distributed from a single source (me), which doesn’t help me avoid any liability, even if I didn’t write all the code. Open Source is not always the answer, nor is it a simple one in this case. Trust me.”

His reasoning seems rather vague, but what do I know? But I do trust him, which is essential with closed source software, especially with freeware.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

2 comments to Facebook Compromises With Social Fixer

  • Lizbeth

    I’d have been like, “see you on diaspora” and continued to not alter my program but hey that’s me… Facebook has no business telling people how they may use their browser and has no legal recourse against the man for his coding prowess of browsers. Lots of other places he could launch his social media site at besides facebook…

  • I’m with you on that Lizbeth. However, not only does Mr. Kruse really like Facebook (unlike some of us who only tolerate it because we can’t get dear old friends to move to Diaspora), he could be seriously financially harmed by Facebook even if they have no case. In civil cases, it doesn’t really matter if you have a case if you’ve got and endless supply of cash to keep things tied up in court. Eventually you’ll win anyway, because the person you’re suing will run out of money and will be unable to keep fighting you in court. Mr. Kruse has two children and he doesn’t want them to suffer because he was standing up for what’s right. I can totally understand that.