A discussion about the breaking of the Internet

Hey everyone — I’m the head of messenger at Kik. I wish this didn’t have to be my first post on Medium, but open source is something that I care about. I’ve published a few meager open source projects in the past, things that aren’t groundbreaking but that I thought might be useful to other people, and I rely on countless others every day.

I found out about this problem like a lot of you, when our builds started failing because we use the extremely helpful JSCS. Through a long chain of dependencies, JSCS relied on [email protected], which was removed by the author yesterday. Our team was confused at the time as well.

Kik has been around for a while and we thought that the name “kik” on Azer’s NPM package could have caused confusion. In fact, once Azer had made it clear that he wasn’t going to change the name, we decided to use a different name for an upcoming package we are going to publish to NPM. We did hope that Azer would change his mind, but we were proceeding under a different package name even when we were told we could have the name Kik.

What’s awesome about open source is that I can go to a project like Redux or Express and peek under the hood, see that there are real people working on it, and understand their reasoning. It’s educational and builds trust. Given that this episode has broken a lot of builds around the world, I want to make sure that everyone has all of the information, which, in this case, means publishing the complete email thread of our exchange here (Note: Bob is our patent agent, not a lawyer.)

The wording we used here was not perfect. We’re sorry for creating any impression that this was anything more than a polite request to use the Kik package name on NPM for an open source project we have been working on that fits the name. Thanks.

Bob Stratton (Mar 11, 10:20)

Azer: We’re reaching out to you as we’d very much like to use our name “kik” for an important package that we are going to release soon. Unfortunately, your use of kik (and kik-starter) mean that we can’t and our users will be confused and/or unable to find our package.
Can we get you to rename your kik package?
Bob Stratton
kik Interactive

Azer (Mar 11, 10:50)

Sorry, I’m building an open source project with that name.

Bob Stratton (Mar 11, 11:26)

We don’t mean to be a dick about it, but it’s a registered Trademark in most countries around the world and if you actually release an open source project called kik, our trademark lawyers are going to be banging on your door and taking down your accounts and stuff like that — and we’d have no choice but to do all that because you have to enforce trademarks or you lose them.
Can we not come to some sort of a compromise to get you to change the name without involving lawyers? Is there something we could do for you in compensation to get you to change the name?
Bob Stratton
kik Interactive

Azer (Mar 11, 12:34)

hahah, you’re actually being a dick. so, fuck you. don’t e-mail me back.

After communication wasn’t going well, Bob emails NPM support directly

Bob Stratton (Mar 11, 12:42)

OK, so it doesn’t seem to be possible to resolve this amicably. Can you guys help?
Bob Stratton
kik Interactive

Bob reaches out again to Azer to see if we can end the discussion reasonably

Bob Stratton (Mar 11, 12:44)

We’re really trying to be reasonable about this to see if we can work it out on a friendly basis. I don’t know why you think that makes us a dick.
Is there nothing we can do for you that would compensate you for the hassle of changing the name?
Bob Stratton
kik Interactive

Azer’s response to our last email

Azer (Mar 11, 12:52)

Yeah, you can buy it for $30.000 for the hassle of giving up with my pet project for bunch of corporate dicks

Email to NPM support

Bob Stratton (Mar 11, 12:57)

We’re not getting anywhere with this — can you guys help? We have KIK registered as a Trademark in many countries of the World, including US and EU and have over 270 Million users. We’d like to release our package under the name kik, and are afraid if we don’t our users will be confused by Azer’s kik package. We really don’t want to involve lawyers and are trying to be reasonable, but Azer doesn’t seem to want to be reasonable.
Any help would be appreciated.
Bob Stratton
kik Interactive

Bob Stratton (Mar 11, 12:59)

Can you guys help. He doesn’t seem to be complying with your “be respectful” terms. :-)
Bob Stratton
kik Interactive

Bob Stratton (Mar 16, 08:42)

Hi: Sorry to be a pain about this, but I’d really rather not get lawyers involved and all of that. Can you guys help at all? Azer seems to be acting pretty poorly.
Bob Stratton
kik Interactive

NPM’s final response on the thread

Isaac Schlueter (npm) (Mar 18, 16:39)

Hi, Azer.
I hear your frustration. The desire to continue to use the kik and kik-starter package names, is clear.
Our goal is to make publishing and installing packages as frictionless as possible. In this case, we believe that most users who would come across a kik package, would reasonably expect it to be related to kik.com. In this context, transferring ownership of these two package names achieves that goal. I understand that you’ve committed time and energy to the packages already, and we don’t take that lightly. I’m hopeful that you’ll be able to republish this project with a new name.
Can you provide an npm account to transfer the name to?
Thank you both for your patience and understanding.

Bob Stratton (Mar 18, 17:00)

Thanks for helping like this — we really appreciate it.
I will get our account info and get back to you.
Bob Stratton

This was the last message from Azer

Azer (Mar 20, 14:22)

Isaac; I’m very disappointed with your decision here. I know you for years and would never imagine you siding with corporate patent lawyers threatening open source contributors.
There are hundreds of modules like Kik, for example, Square; https://www.npmjs.com/package/square.
So you’ll let these corporate lawyers register whatever name they want ? Noone is looking for a Kik package because they don’t have one.
I want all my modules to be deleted including my account, along with this package. I don’t wanna be a part of NPM anymore. If you don’t do it, let me know how do it quickly. I think I have the right of deleting all my stuff from NPM.