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Firefox passive-aggressives adjudicate Nerd Law

Better than a severed horse head

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Fail and You Last week, blood was shed in the Firefox community as two popular extensions to the browser - NoScript and Adblock Plus - finally started slugging it out over a conflict that had been underground for quite some time.

It came to a head when Adblock Plus developer Wladimir Palant woke up in the morning next to a severed horse's head. What followed was a series of public fire-bombings, shootings, and unprovoked tire-iron beatings that left a trail of blood winding around the world.

Ha, no, just kidding.

Two passive-aggressive nerds, each acting in their own self-interest, got into a blog slap-fight, the only collateral damage being several thousand Twitter messages and a few devout Firefox users pledging to uninstall one extension or the other so that they can feel like they took a stand on an important issue.

The Reg covered the facts of the case already, but why did this become such a public affair? Couldn't these two developers have avoided airing their dirty laundry by, oh, I don't know, talking to each other and working out their differences like adults, instead of introverted high school sophomores who can only muster the balls to ask out girls over AOL Instant Messenger?

Yes, in theory, they could have avoided this mess, but in the stick-it-to-the-man-from-your-mother's-basement world of open source, there would be no other outcome.

Giorgio Maone, who develops the NoScript security extension for Firefox, has needs like everybody else. He needs to eat, and he needs to put a roof over his head. His extension is pretty popular, accumulating around 50 million downloads. To capitalize on this, he made NoScript update itself fairly frequently, and the update page on his website displays some Google ads.

On the other side is Wladimir Palant, the current developer of Adblock Plus. Adblock Plus allows you to surf the web without seeing a lot of ads and does so by maintaining blacklists of know ad servers and formats, the most popular of which is called EasyList, maintained by somebody only known as Ares2. Palant has railed against the possible conflict of interest created when extension developers try to make money from their creations.

"I know that some other extension developers have their extension as a full-time job and that makes them dependent on money sources. Given the market value of their user base, it is hard not to sell out," he said in post on the Adblock Plus blog.

Now, Adblock Plus does provide value to users by blocking annoying and distracting banner ads, but from where I'm standing, Palant seems to have given himself mandate of altruism that borders on a savior complex. For someone who maintains software that is antithetical to the internet's general business model, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it really does a number on those social skills.

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