On December 16, 2011

FrictionlessLast week, Nik Cubrilovic and I put out a side project called Frictionless. Frictionless is a browser extension that lets you read articles shared on Facebook without being nagged to add newfangled social-reader apps.

Ironically (I live in constant fear of misusing this word), the project started with a Facebook status update and comment thread then was finished in a few days over Facebook chat. We originally named the extension Frictionless Clicking but got scooped by TechCrunch, who chopped off the “Clicking”. We adopted the truncated name.

Here are a couple more articles that describe Frictionless better than I — and require no apps to read:

The Secret History of Facebook Disconnect

On October 24, 2011

I’ve been meaning to tell the origin story of Facebook Disconnect for a while now. The extension’s first birthday gave me an excuse to. This post is republished from the shiny, new Disconnect blog.

Facebook DisconnectExactly one year ago, I noticed a virus infecting the web. Facebook widgets, mostly Like buttons, were popping up everywhere — alongside the articles I read, the music I listened to, the videos I watched. Worse, Facebook was (and is) serving these widgets off the same domain ( as their login cookies.

Being a tracking aficionado (I developed DoubleClick’s mobile ad server and the, kludgy, precursor to Google’s AdWords API), I recognized Facebook’s strategy — collecting user browsing habits to sell to advertisers.

That night, I spent two hours writing 53 lines of JSON and JavaScript (and two more hours making a Ghostbusters-inspired logo) to inoculate my browser. I called the Chrome extension, which works by stopping the flow of personal data from third-party sites to Facebook, Facebook Disconnect.

I’d done side projects before, including another extension that had 37 users. But I was thinking big this time. I imagined Facebook Disconnect could have 50 users.

I was off by three orders of magnitude and change.

Today, Facebook Disconnect has over 150,000 weekly users. And the extension has been Chrome only, till now.

To celebrate Facebook Disconnect’s birthday, we’ve created versions for Firefox and Safari and open-sourced the code as usual!

fear Google

On September 19, 2011

Behold this awesome sticker I found last week at TechCrunch Disrupt:

fear Google
Or did the sticker find me?

Google — Clueless or Misleading?

On February 28, 2011

Disconnect was covered by the Wall Street Journal (blog) today (note to future Disconnect scribes: this underline thing is called a hyperlink). The post features the work of one of Google’s master bunko artists, whom I’d like to debunk for you:

Google spokesman Chris Gaither declined to comment on Disconnect, but said that users can also turn off search personalization by removing their Web history. (Instructions are here.)

The change Google suggests is strictly cosmetic — their search results will be displayed differently (i.e., not personalized), but your queries and cookies will still be logged by them and kept for 18 months.

Disconnect: Month One

On January 13, 2011

On Disconnect’s one-month birthday, I thought I’d share some usage bits and bobs. Here’s a performance snapshot from Monday — Disconnect is now the 112th most popular and 67th highest rated of the 11,000-odd extensions and themes in the Chrome extension gallery and Facebook Disconnect, the 84th most popular and 10th highest rated (the user and install data is anonymous and collected by the extension system not the extensions themselves):


More importantly, commenter Chris dug up this mind-blowing video about Facebook Disconnect (the Facebook Blocker extension noted in the video hides rather than blocks Facebook resources so isn’t a suitable privacy-protecting substitute for Facebook Disconnect on Firefox or Safari):