Culture / Development / DevOps

This Week in Programming: The Intriguing Tale of Parler’s Demise

16 Jan 2021 6:00am, by

If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the past week, you’ve likely read all about the “great deplatforming,” as some have referred to it. Following the events of Jan. 6, President Donald Trump was removed from a number of social networks and platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and more — the list goes on. At the same time, there remained one network, Parler, that, having dubbed itself a “neutral town square that just adheres to the law,” would remain a viable location for the president to move his online presence. Last weekend, that option was taken away, as both Google and Apple removed the app from their respective app stores and Amazon pulled the rug out from under the company by setting a deadline for it to right its ways — and remove certain content and impose restrictions — or lose its hosting on its services.

What happened next showcases a service and a sequence of events that will likely serve as a what-not-to-do for years to come. On the infrastructure side of things, the company’s CEO provided a statement that left many in the field baffled as to how the company would quickly rebuild, instead illustrating how not to create a resilient service.

Now a week out, the site is still completely offline and said to be done for good, but infrastructure aside, what happened right before Amazon pulled the plug is a tale worth reading, and re-reading, if not solely for the schadenfreude, then for the story of how the service was completely owned by an army of hackers that didn’t even need to try all that hard.

All this is to say, if you read nothing else this week, then I urge you to head on over to Vice to read the full story of the hacker who archived Parler and explains how she did it, and then over to Wired for a quick explanation of the absurdly basic bug that let anyone grab all of Parler’s data.

Long story short, Parler indexed all of its posts, which were available via a public API without any rate-limiting, in numerical order according to when they were posted. This meant that the hacker who led the effort, who goes by donk_enby on Twitter, was able to write a script and coordinate others to preserve 56.7 terabytes of public data from the service, which comprised “every public post on Parler, 412 million files in all — including 150 million photos and more than 1 million videos,” all of which contained metadata such as GPS location and timestamps.

This Week in Programming

  • Go Proposes Generics… Again: It isn’t the first, but will hopefully be the last, time that the Go team writes up a proposal for adding generics to Go. Long under debate by the language design team, the latest Go language change proposal looks to add support for type parameters for types and functions, permitting a form of generic programming. The language has been here before, proposing the change, but has run into objections and obstacles. As they write, “Since Go was first released in 2009, support for generics has been one of the most commonly requested language features. […] Although generics have clear use cases, fitting them cleanly into a language like Go is a difficult task. One of the first (flawed) attempts to add generics to Go dates back all the way to 2010. There have been several others over the last decade.” This latest proposal hopes to have learned from these past mistakes and the team is now inviting “substantive criticisms and comments.” If accepted, the plan is to have “a complete, though perhaps not fully optimized, implementation for people to try by the end of the year, perhaps as part of the Go 1.18 betas.”
  • Javascript Cruising Right Along in 2020: “As crappy as 2020 was,” begins the intro to this year’s State of JS 2020, “JavaScript as a whole still managed to somehow move forward.” With new features and the continued adoption of TypeScript, Javascript saw the approval of 80.6% of respondents saying that the language was, indeed, moving in the right direction. In looking at the data, SDTimes focuses on the shakeup among popular frameworks that the numbers reveal, with React and Vue remaining the most popular, while “Svelte is starting to establish itself as a top contender for the top spot” with 89% satisfaction and a big increase in adoption over the last year. Angular and Ember, they note, have meanwhile “seen major dropoffs in satisfaction over the years,” although usage seems to have remained steady for both. As always, there’s plenty of fun, interactive graphs to peruse, so head on over to further dive into the state of the Javascript ecosystem for the year past.
  • DigitalOcean Adds BYO Container Images: Expanding upon its recently released App Platform, Digital Ocean has introduced a bring your own container image workflow. The new workflow allows users to go beyond the many supported languages and frameworks without having to provide the Dockerfile in your repo. Instead, App Platform now lets you deploy pre-built container images with App Platform after you push the image to the DigitalOcean Container Registry (DOCR).
  • Go Tool GTA Goes Open Source: Sticking with DigitialOcean for a moment, the company has also open sourced a tool it created to help detect affected dependent Go packages. The tool, referred to as gta, is used to understand the downstream dependencies of Go packages that are changed in pull requests by comparing “the current branch with its merge base of the destination branch to determine what’s been changed in the branch. It then calculates all dependencies of those changes and outputs the import paths of all the affected packages.” The company says that it was “able to dramatically reduce the time required to build and test a pull request while still ensuring complete analysis and testing” and speeding up their mono repo builds from 20 minutes to two to three minutes on average. Now available under the Apache 2.0 license, gta works with code stored in git, and DigitalOcean notes that the code must be structured “efficiently” for it to work best.

  • 2021 Cons & Hackathons: Finally, 2021 is upon us and we have a new slate of virtual conferences and hackathons to look forward to in the year ahead, with some announced just this week. Google’s Hash Code 2021 is going virtual, the company writes, with registration now open for the competition that lets developers “grow their coding skills and work to optimize real Google engineering problems.” To see problems presented in years past, such as automating smartphone assembly or designing the layout of a Google data center, check out the archives. Teams of two to four people can join an existing virtual Hub or apply to organize a Hub for their community, and find updates on the Facebook Group. Online qualifications start on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 9:30 a.m. PT, with registration due by Feb. 24. Next, this year’s DockerCon 2021 has been slated for May 27 and pre-registration is being accepted now. The event will be free, online, and is said to include “a couple of new features including full-day pre-conference technical workshops, additional content and more community activities.” Last up, OpenJS World 2021 has been slated for June 9 and is taking calls for papers with a due date of Feb. 15, 2021. The Javascript developer conference is free, with YouTube keynotes, and says that this year’s event will “allow for an on-demand, ‘Netflix style’ experience with a specific premier time and flexibility for international audience viewing, as well as more discussion opportunities with speakers.” Registrations are open now.

Feature image by Josh Withers on Unsplash.

The New Stack is a wholly owned subsidiary of Insight Partners. TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in the following companies: Docker, Hightower, Real.

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