What's Faceclash?

It's a game based off of Mark Zuckerberg's Facemash from back in 2003. Facemash was considered by many Harvard's version of the Hot or Not game. His site juxtaposed two photos of female students from Harvard, and let users vote on who was hotter based on attractiveness. The site was a source of much controversy (and trouble for Zuckerberg himself), mostly because of how all the photos on the site were obtained. Zuckerberg programmatically scraped the online facebooks of the houses at Harvard, which was considered a breach of security by the institution. Using it without consent on this controversial site also added on to the load of charges already placed against him. He was also accused of violation of copyrights and invasion of privacy, and nearly got expelled over the creation of Facemash, but the charges were eventually dropped. His site was short-lived, however. It only lasting about a night, before it was taken down in the morning. But between the time, it had already accumulated a total of 450 unique visitors and 22,000 votes. Zuckerberg said that he only sent the link to the website out to a couple people for testing, and did not expect it to spread that quickly.

I was asking about Faceclash, not Facemash.

A little backstory was needed to make sure you knew where this came from. Faceclash was built upon Facemash, adding on to it while still maintaining the core idea. Faceclash started out as a learning experiment with some technologies like Linux, SQL and AJAX. The most important thing that I got out of it, was how the Elo rating system, an algorithm used for ranking in competitor-versus-competitor matches, worked.

The game is finished, now what?

I needed to find a server to host it on. I decided to stick with my best friend, Heroku. During testing, I realized that I had neglected the fact that their filesystems were ephemeral, and were uncapable of saving the data that would come from game. This delayed the deployment of the site by about a day. Eventually I found DigitalOcean and decided to host it there. Everything was set up, and the site was ready to be deployed with a moment's notice. Things were ready, and it was time to spread the word. I opened up Facebook and posted the link to Faceclash on there. The site officially went live during the afternoon on November 13, 2016. I was projecting about fifty unique visitors and a few hundred votes at the time.

What happened after the site goes live?

Actually, I went to bed early that day, so I did not track the status of the site overnight. But I was very surprised at how much had taken place overnight, when I turned my phone on for the first time since the night before. Traffic had peaked multiple times, but the most traffic rolled in after midnight, a time which I did not expect many people to be awake at. I noticed I had a lot of unread messages (some were not friendly). There were many complaints regarding photos being used on the site without consent. Everything had been manually approved by me, and I had assumed that everyone was playing by the rules, and were submitting their own photos. The site was briefly taken offline to clear out the photos being requested to be removed. After that short period of downtime, the site was up again, and the bandwidth levels continued its interesting pattern of instantly peaking when the site was online, where it remained steady and close to the top for nearly half an hour at times. I monitored the site traffic for most of my lunch break.

Why isn't Faceclash online anymore? faceclash.ml no longer points to the game.

It no longer points to the game itself, and instead redirects here, because I've shut it down for good. The game was attracting a lot of attention. It was definitely upsetting a lot of people. By a lot, I mean a lot. Things were getting out of hand. It got to the point where I was called up to the principal's office by the principal itself, to discuss matters regarding the website. He told me he had received numerous complaints from around the school, from both students and teachers. He also told me, however, that I was not actually violating any rules by creating the sites, because the main source of controversy, was the photos. However, I did not steal photos and use them without permission. They were user-submitted and had to go through a moderation layer (which I am glad I implemented at the last minute, now that I look back). Shutting the site down was optional, which meant that I could let it continue to run. But if anything were to happen at school that was caused by the site, I could have some problems on my hand. The site was shut down right then and there, in his office. The site was officially offline as of Monday afternoon, November 14, 2016. But I had already gotten what I needed from it. The game needed to go down some time, and now was more than the best time to shut it down.

What were the numbers?

Very, very surprising. I didn't even expect it to get so popular, so quickly. The final numbers were 730 unique visitors and 18,000 votes. I had wanted Faceclash to beat Facemash's 22,000 votes, but 18,000 was pretty close to it already. I received mixed reactions about the site from fellow students, some thought it was cool, while some did not like it one bit, and decided to take to social media to express it. People called it a Tinder.

Why did you make the site? Were you aware of the consequences that would arise from it?

I made the site, because I saw it as a good way to learn SQL, AJAX, and the Elo rating system. I was fully aware of what had happened to Facemash, and how that ended up. But I had also thought user-submitted photos and a moderation system would prevent that from happening. But nope, it still did.

What was the secret to the game's popularity?

Can't tell you the secret, because if I told you, it wouldn't be one anymore. But I can tell you that the reaction would've been completely different if photos of complete strangers were on the site instead of fellow students. But stock photos aren't my thing, or anyone else's.

What now?

Many people liked the idea that I made a site that allowed you to do what it was intended to, but recommended that I apply some of the ideas and experience gained from Faceclash into some other project that also offered similar features. Some called for an actual dating app. But before I move on, I decided to make the source code of the game open-source, for others to learn from. The code can now be found here. Don't forget to leave a star!