Forking TACO 2.0

June 17, 2010

Update (2010-06-30)

Abine has posted their own view of the events, which I would recommend as a follow up read to this post. I sort of agree with what they say there, but don’t take this as an endorsement.

The link is at the bottom of this post.

A few days ago my Firefox updated an extension that has been a useful favorite for quite a while, TACO. What I saw when it was finished surprised me and made me upset.


What The What?!

You see, TACO has always been a quiet, understated background application. It sits there, humming softly in the dark keeping my advertising opt-out cookies up to date. It has no UI, it has no configuration, it just works.

This new TACO though, was flashy, shiny and filled with buttons and features. It even had a built in app store!


I Kid You Not

I freaked out, I moved quickly and I removed TACO 3.0. I checked the page on Mozilla.org and found that others were not happy with the new TACO either. It had become a commercial affair by the folks at Abine. More on them later.

So what’s a geek to do? Why, fork it of course. I hopped online and grabbed TACO 2.0, unpacked it and took a look. This classic version didn’t have much to it, and what’s more it was licensed under the Apache 2.0 License. Fork’s Away!

I quickly set up my git repo, made some slight changes and let people know about my new Beef Taco in a review on the old TACO 2.0 page.


“Beef Taco”, Get It?

There, crisis averted. I have a new project to keep track of, but maybe this will help out anyone else who cringes at 3.0.

Later that evening I got an email from Rob Shavell, one of the founders of Abine. I expected an uncomfortable reply from Abine, if they noticed me at all, but Rob was totally cool. He even got my joke with the name of the new extension.

Hello. I have to compliment you on the beef taco name. I’m personally apologizing for our upgrade that you, judging by your actions, didn’t want / need. Even though we’re trying to offer the same type of downgrade, I’m sure a lot of users will appreciate your fork.

That’s pretty neat, and they are okay with my fork. I suppose maybe I can take some of the support load off of them, so that the paranoids like me will leave them alone.

But it gets better, we traded a few more emails talking about my fork, the new direction of 3.0 and the reaction in general, when he sent me this gem.

4. we’ll send you all new opt-outs we add so you can easily stay in sync..

Are you kidding me? You’re going to help my fork? That is awesome. At that moment Abine won my trust back, completely. These guys seem to really be trying to do something with their startup, but they also care about privacy in general.

Sure enough, I had a list of new opt-out cookies in about an hour. That is how you show you care about your users.

I went back and took another look at 3.0, and while it doesn’t appeal to me as a proficient user, there are a lot of features in there that are pretty cool, and you can tell they put a lot of work into it.

Stuff like telling me how many data breach incidents an advertiser has had, or the sort of “complete threat panel” thing. That’s some cool stuff.


Back Off Microsoft!


Detailed Privacy Panel – Pretty Cool

I think that TACO 3.0 is only going to get better, and is going to have real appeal to novice users.

Who knows, it may even be pressed back into service in my browser someday. Until then, I’ll maintain Beef Taco, with a little less beef now then before.

Some Links For You

Comments

  1. Markus says:

    Personally I appreciate your effort, but I’d like to know why you chose to use TACO 2.0 to fork Beef off, and not the 2.1 that Abine has offered in the comment section as a reaction to all the negative reviews. This 2.1 has the up to date opt-out cookie improvements that should have been the auto-update, while 2.0 (and thus Beef TACO) uses data that’s a year old. Otherwise, thumbs up.

  2. john says:

    I don’t see 2.1 on the versions page: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addons/versions/11073

    There will soon be an updated Beef Taco with more opt-out cookies, provided by Abine actually. If you point me to 2.1 I’ll try and integrate that as well.

  3. Markus says:

    Some of the reviews from June 15th have developer responses that include this link offered as a remedy for people who want just the old TACO with new opt-out cookie data: http://www.abine.com/TACO/gettaco21.php
    The PHP generates the XPI file, so it wants to install straight away if you’re using Firefox. Maybe use a different browser instead to download the file from above link. You should get an XPI about 8kb in size from there.

  4. john says:

    Thank you for pointing that out. I’ll be sure to integrate it if I can.

  5. Dude says:

    I’m not sure who owns the web site abine.com, but Abine’s official website is actually getabine.com . I’d be careful about installing version 2.1 from that link until this gets sorted out.

  6. john says:

    Thank’s, I didn’t notice that. I downloaded and unpacked it, it’s the 2.0 source with some new opt-outs added in.

    But that’ doesn’t mean it can’t be changed.

    If you do download it, the SHA1 hash of the one I verified as clean is:
    26588e0aa8ee9304497173225177f85885b87b81

  7. Dude says:

    I was able to find 2.1 at http://www.getabine.com/TACO/gettaco21.php

    Maybe abine.com and getabine.com are run by the same people, but getabine is the site pointed to by the addon, so it’s the only one of the 2 that I “trust”.

    John, you’ve done good work, raising awareness and providing options. I saw you listed on slashdot – that’s pretty cool.

  8. Luke says:

    Thanks for taking the time to do a fork.

    One “preferences feature” that would be nice would be a list of all the advertisers with check boxes so we can choose to allow a few of them. Some sites won’t work unless you allow advertising cookies from X. A better feature would be single domain allows but that might make things too bloated or slow.

    Is there a Wiki with instructions on how to add and remove cookies from the Beef Taco manually?

    Once again thank you….

  9. john says:

    @Luke – The preferences thing is on deck, it’s the next step. For now if you want to build it without certain cookies, I’ll refer you to http://wiki.github.com/jmhobbs/beef-taco/custom-builds which I am in the process of writing right now.

  10. Luke says:

    @john – Thanks, looks good. I like the idea that I can add extra cookies myself. I might add a few login cookies for some of the low security sites I frequent that get deleted. That’s beyond the scope of this plug-in and I’m not asking for das feature creep. Just rambling aloud. Take care and thanks for the reply…

  11. meh says:

    It is not cool to bundle binaries in a firefox extension.

  12. john says:

    I assume you mean the new Taco 3.0? Beef Taco has no binaries. I wouldn’t think Taco 3.0 could either, but I didn’t look at it too hard.

  13. fooo says:

    @john – 3.0 has binaries.

  14. meh says:

    @john

    yes, apologies for lack of clarity. That was directed at the taco major “upgrade”.

    It is woefully inappropriate for anyone bundle binaries. All files should be easily end-user editable — to remove unwanted “features” or nefarious code for their own respective use.

    Thank you for lending your skill to rescue us with a fork :)

    taco 3
    .\profiles\[profile]\extensions\optout@dubfire.net\lib\WINNT

    *forsooth*

    AMO editor credibility is waning

  15. Abine says:

    Just a point about binaries: 1. these are not against Mozilla rules, many extensions use them 2. the main reason for their presence is to actually optimize performance — you can use TACO 3.0 without the binaries (try it if you’d like).

  16. mehtoo says:

    @Abine

    the old other people are jumping off the bridge into inappropriate water argument?

    :snicker:

  17. anonymous says:

    You might want to check the TACO v2.1 update URL:
    https://www.getabine.com/update_taco.php?token=XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    We help protect you from tracking but we don’t mind tracking you for our needs …

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