Network Security

Developer’s 11 lines of deleted code ‘breaks the internet’

Web development around the world was disrupted when a 28-year-old man deleted 11 lines of his code from npm.

Azer Koçulu, an open-source programmer from Oakland, California “broke the internet” for a short period of time, proving that writing software for the web is dependent on code that is relied upon by other programmers. Koçulu's ‘left-pad' module was specifically relied upon by tech giants Facebook and Netflix.

Koçulu deleted his code after a dispute with messaging company Kik, over a module he was working on that was also called kik. Bob Stratton, a patent and trademark agent who does contract work for Kik reached out to Koçulu in an email and asked, “Can we get you to rename your kik package?” Koçulu wrote back saying, “Sorry, I'm building an open source project with that name.”

The conversation between the two quickly turned into Stratton threatening legal action and Koçulu telling him off and to not email him back. Stratton offered to pay for the name, with Koçulu suggesting $30,000 (£20,818) for the hassle of “giving up with my pet project.” An agreement was not met.

Npm was pulled into the argument and sided with Kik rather than their long-time developer for the sake of the npm community. “What it came down to is that a reasonable well-informed user who types ‘npm install kik' would expect to get something related to Kik. So that's why we turned (the name) over,” said npm CEO Isaac Schlueter. 

Koçulu was annoyed by npm's decision and requested that all his modules be deleted including his account. Npm agreed to let him delete everything, and all 273 modules, including left-pad, that he'd registered on npm were wiped. The former npm developer apologised for the disruption from deleting his code, but stands by his decision.

“We dropped the ball in not protecting you from a disruption caused by unrestricted unpublishing. We're addressing this with technical and policy changes,” npm wrote in a blog post. “We'll continue to do everything we can to reduce friction in the lives of JavaScript developers.”

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