As Strollerderby blogger Danielle, uh, notified us on Tuesday, California software designer Dan Loewenherz unveiled a new Facebook application this week called “Breakup Notifier,” allowing users to “select ‘friends’ whose Facebook relationship status they’d like to monitor.” The application would then notify the user via email when the selected friends change their relationship status to single. I say would, because it turns out Mark Zuckerberg, who may be sensitive since (ironically) he has been cyberstalked on his own site, must have found the idea a bit creepy. Facebook shut the application down within three days of its existence.
At the time it was blocked, Breakup Notifier had 3,673,484 users signed up. That’s nearly 4 million people who are clearly anxious to know what’s going on with their old flames, or a prospective lover’s relationship. (Full disclosure: I tried signing up for the app Tuesday morning – for research purposes only, of course – but the site was down due to volume.)
Facebook’s official line, though, is not that they took issue with the stalker-y nature of the app (since, after all, keeping track of people is Facebook’s sole purpose), but that it was simply too popular and seen as spam. Here’s the technobabble Loewenherz was sent via email:
To ensure positive user experiences on Platform, we run routine automated screens that take user feedback, machine learning and various algorithms into account and remove spammy applications. For example, if an application is making an inordinate number of stream.publish calls and receiving a large number of user reports, it may be removed by our automated systems to protect the user experience and the Platform ecosystem.
According to TechCrunch, it seems that Breakup Notifier was automatically disabled by this anti-spam system, and Facebook may be looking into restoring the app. Personally, I don’t think Breakup Notifier’s function is stalker-y at all. It offers a service you already find in your status update stream. I’ll never forget the day I changed my relationship status from married to blank. I did it a few weeks before I had officially decided to get divorced, because deep in my heart I knew what was coming, and I was actually trying to be stealthy by simply removing my status entirely.
Little did I know Facebook would take it upon itself to send a broken heart icon out to all of my friends next to the phrase, “Carolyn is no longer listed as married.” I was overwhelmed with comments, private messages, phone calls, hushed conversations at parties. I had to explain to everyone, no I’m not getting divorced – yet. Oy! The drama. (This was at the end of 2008, before people were really aware they could customize their Facebook privacy settings.) If only Breakup Notifier existed back then, I may already be in another relationship worthy of an updated Facebook status. <3 Carolyn Castiglia is in a relationship with [?]*.
*Currently, ? = red wine/tortilla chips/coffee/old Dave Matthews CD’s. It’s going well so far.