Thursday, February 11, 2021

Facebook Ads Relied on Deprecated Chrome Feature

Shane O’Sullivan (via Hacker News):

Back in 2013 I was working in the Ads Interfaces organisation at Facebook, building mostly front end products (other people did the AI, database etc). We had an application called Power Editor which was the kitchen sink of products, and 25% of all Facebook revenue depended on it working. Every single thing you could do with ads on Facebook was supported in Power Editor (we called it P.E. for short).


I looked into the code base, and was shocked to find that the entire application depended on a technology called WebSQL. It only ran on Chrome, and Google had deprecated WebSQL over a year earlier. I kind of flopped back in my chair, dragged my manager to a room, and told him that Google could shut off 25% of Facebook’s revenue, and lose us all our large accounts, by turning off WebSQL in Chrome, and it could happen any time.


Google couldn’t have killed Facebook by flipping that switch. The Power Editor users would have done whatever it takes to access the interface, installed an insecure older browser, ran commands in the console, build a relay computer in their back yard, and so on. They will do whatever it takes because they are not choosing that platform for its features, they are professionals doing a job, and that job is reaching the user base of Facebook with their ads. If they can’t do that they will lose their jobs and clients.

I wonder if it’s really true that you can keep using an old version of Chrome against Google’s wishes.

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It *is* possible to continue using an older version of Chrome. I used BlockBlock to prevent Chrome from installing its auto-updater launch agent, so I get to choose when I update.

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