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5/4/2009
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NoScript Developer Apologizes For Meddling With AdBlock

His methods caused a furor in the Mozilla community over the weekend because he did not provide clear notification about what his software was doing.

The developer of the popular NoScript add-on for Firefox on Monday issued a sweeping apology for abusing the trust of those who had installed his software and for violating Mozilla's rules for add-on developers.

"I beg you to accept my most sincere apologies and believe in my shame and contrition," concluded Giorgio Maone, creator of the JavaScript-blocking extension NoScript, at the end of a lengthy statement of regret. "I know I've done something horrible, creating a scandal like the Mozilla community never had faced before and betraying the trust of many, many people. Please help me to repair the damage I've caused with my errors."

Maone's sin was to interfere with the operation of another popular Firefox extension, Adblock Plus, through JavaScript code added to his NoScript extension. He created a version of NoScript that altered Adblock Plus to whitelist the ads on his site, NoScript.net, so that they would not be blocked, thereby ensuring his continued ability to earn revenue from the ads.

Maone is not the first Web site owner to seek a way to prevent ads on his site from being blocked. But his methods caused a furor in the Mozilla community over the weekend because he did not provide clear notification about what his software was doing and because he did not seek user consent.

In so doing, Maone's actions became indistinguishable from those of a malware author. "Clearly, NoScript is moving from the gray area of adware into dark black area of scareware, making money at user's expense at any cost," observed Wladimir Palant, author of Adblock Plus, in a blog post about the incident.

Maone takes issue with Palant's claim that his code was obfuscated -- written to be difficult to read, a practice common among malware authors. But he states in his post that he wants to focus on apologizing rather than rebutting alleged inaccuracies.

It remains to be seen how much damage Maone's actions have done to the viability of NoScript. Many users posting about the incident promised to uninstall the extension. But some have accepted Maone's apology. Others took the opportunity to question the ethics of ad blocking.

"It must be particularly hard to have a lesson in ethics from Adblock, that charmingly unethical piece of software based on the principle that 'other people should look at ads so that *I* can enjoy content without inconvenience,' " reads one comment posted beneath Maone's mea culpa.

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