Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Meet the Lazyrussian, a hacker that played monkey tricks with Facebook for two-and-half years

Most of you who are reading this post may not have any knowledge as to who The Lazyrussian is. Despite that, most of you may have used his software. I was the same a few months ago. I have never thought very much about Lazyrussian until recently when I visited a homepage of one of his popular technologies and found that he announced that he has ceased developing the software and will no longer host it due to pending lawsuits from Facebook.

He goes by the name Arthur Ariel Sabintsev but he uses to call himself The Lazyrussian or just Lazyrussian in software development circles. He is a twenty-five year-old 'May' baby.  He has a combination of talents. He is an naturally born software developer who holds an undergraduate degree in Biophysics and a graduate degree in Nuclear Physics. He has never done any professional course in software development but has grown a cowboy developer since he was twelve years old.

To his credit, Lazyrussian has developed the following free and open source tools: Buzz It!, Email This!, Email Yourself!, MySpacePAD and FacePAD/PhotoJacker. On 16th June 2011, he announced on his website (http://www.sabintsev.com) that he has foregone his PhD in Physics in pursuit of his software development passion. He also mentioned that he has been hired by Fueled, a New York based software development company where he is honing his programming skills as an iOS/Android developer from 20th June 2011.

Arthur came into my limelight when I was looking for a simple tool that would help me easily download photos from Facebook when I need them. I was looking for a tool that would help me get high resolution photos, because manually downloading them was not giving me the expected quality. One day, I stumbled upon an article that described five technologies that would help me do that. I tried using all of them, but unfortunately none came closer to FacePAD. I finally fell in love with FacePAD.

FacePAD was a simple Firefox extension that would expeditiously download a single photo or an entire photo album off Facebook in few minutes. A Firefox extension is a piece of software, also referred to as an add-on or a plugin, that you can install as part your Firefox Web Browser. Lazyrussian went ahead to release FacePAD on Mozilla's Addons page for public use. On 12 January 2011, Lazyrussian announced that Facebook’s lawyers wrote him stating that he should rebrand FacePAD within 48 hours, or he would be slapped with a lawsuit.  So, the developer enacted his contingency plan and rebranded FacePAD as PhotoJacker.

On a sad note, Lazyrussian announced on PhotoJacker.com on 27th January 2011 that he has ceased from developing the software and has removed from Mozilla because Facebook had sent him a Cease & Desist notice stating that PhotoJacker/FacePAD violates Section 3.2 of their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. In the notice, Facebook also stated that the developer was opening himself to claims that he is facilitating copyright infringement via the download of the albums of others. The notice also advised him to build something using Facebook APIs rather than working around or contravening Facebook’s limitations, or, make a suggestion to Facebook for functionality he would like to see.

From his two announcements  (about name change and Cease & Desist / Facebook Takedown Notice), and from the copy of Facebook's Cease & Desist notice that I got pa Kanjedza (under the palm tree), it appears that the discussion between the two parties on FacePAD had been around for a while. On the other hand, I personally noticed that Facebook had been frequently changing links to users' photos and photo albums over the past two years. The Lazyrussian kept updating his software till he got this strong warning on 26 January 2011, and finally gave up the fight on grounds that he was a full time student and he really didn't have the time to deal with this issue.

From the word of his mouth, and indeed, from my own opinion, FacePAD was not intended to be of any evil intentions. It developed as an out-of-play alternative way for downloading photos from Facebook. Such application is technically called a hack not a crack. FacePAD was a cool tool that made use of AJAX requests, regular expressions and some built-in Firefox functionalities to download the photos. Facebook was extremely upset that he was able to create this photo-downloading software without using their API. Lazyrussian thinks he was getting punished for being clever. On 16 June 2011, Lazyrussian joined Github and decided to publish FacePAD's source code under copyleft license in an attempt to preserve it.

It was very fascinating to see how a student hacker was making Facebook's life miserable. But Facebook also started as a student hacker's invention at Havard!

There goes The Lazyrussian and his controversial FacePAD!

1 comment:

  1. a very good read. enjoyed it and dint know about this guy until now.

    ReplyDelete