The man who broke the internet by deleting 11 lines of code

Matt Lillywhite

The true story of Azer Koçulu

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The story of a man breaking the internet begins with something we all know and love: Doritos.

I’m just kidding. But Azer Koçulu may have been eating Doritos in his bedroom when he took down Netflix, Facebook, and many other popular websites. They taste great!

Anyway, let’s discuss the story of how one man broke the internet by deleting 11 lines of code.

It All Began With A Heated Argument…

Unlike many disagreements on the internet, Azer Koçulu wasn’t arguing with a stranger about Apple having superior products to Android.

You see, Koçulu had been publishing code he wrote to npm, a popular package manager that’s used as a registry to find and install open-source software in JavaScript.

For those who are unaware, Npm is a crucial tool in web development. It’s used billions of times every month because of its vast library of free code packages contributed by the open-source community. Plus, using npm saves programmers time when they need to develop projects because they can copy and paste open-source code.

Many websites on the internet are built this way. It’s like a giant Jenga tower. Programmers stack open-source packages on top of each other to save time. But, like removing the wrong Jenga brick, it doesn’t take long for everything to topple down like a house of cards.

Anyway, one of the open-source JavaScript packages Koçulu had created was named kik. It assisted programmers in creating project templates. And although it wasn’t well-known, kik shared the same name as a popular messaging app.

Koçulu received an annoying email one day from Bob Stratton, a patent and trademark agent who works with kik. “Can we get you to rename your kik package?” Stratton asked.

Koçulu said no and told Stratton to go away. It was evident that the two men weren’t going to reach an agreement. However, npm backed the popular messaging app during a dispute. As a result, ownership of the kik package name was transferred to the messaging app (rather than Koçulu).

Here’s How Azer Koçulu Broke The Internet

He was angrier than Donald Trump after losing the Presidential election. Azer contacted npm and said he wanted all of the open-source packages he registered to be removed out of spite. “I don’t wanna be a part of NPM anymore,” he wrote. “If you don’t do it, let me know how to do it quickly.”

Azer Koçulu followed through on his promise. And, on March 23, 2016, he unpublished 273 open-source packages he uploaded to npm — including a little-known one called Left-pad.

Across the internet, websites began failing. Netflix, Facebook, and Spotify are just a few examples. They used Left-pad somewhere in their Jenga tower of code. And once it disappeared from npm, some websites couldn’t function properly. Oops.

Thanks to caching, most front-facing users (aka normies) didn’t experience any disruption. But software developers and programmers in Silicon Valley were in a state of panic. It was like armageddon, as they didn’t know how to fix the problem. But after a while, a solution was found. Npm, the package manager, took the unprecedented step of republishing Left-pad to resolve the chaos. Kik, Koçulu, and npm all released blog posts saying they did nothing wrong.

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Matt Lillywhite publishes national news and local stories. He can be reached via email at Mattlillywhitenewsbreak@gmail.com

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