If you came to Brand Thunder yesterday, or even earlier today, you probably assumed we were part of the Internet blackout effort to stop SOPA. While I might say that was fortunate timing, the real truth is that we experienced an unfortunate server meltdown. For us, there were two scary parts to the story of January 18.

Please read both of them. We can really use your help with the first point. The second point is a much more subjective one. I won’t say which way to throw your support, but it’s an issue worth your time to have an informed opinion.

Share Your Blackout Details

As a small company, we test for as many scenarios as we can. There’s no way to prep for what we saw yesterday, and no way for us to understand it’s full impact. That’s why I’m asking for your help. I’ll outline some of the “known” issues or expected ones from a downed server, but if you want to share your experiences – especially if they’re not listed below – please email me directly at kevin – at – brandthunder – dot – com (substitute ” – at – ” with @ and ” – dot – ” with .). You can also make a comment in the Brand Thunder support forum.

Some things we know about:

  • Toolbar buttons missing from themes – Many of the buttons are images that are pulled from our server. With the server down, the buttons won’t load. This is different from the theme image, which always has a locally saved version.
  • Internet Explorer down in some instances – There was an early identification of a bug in an update that just released that required a server check. Oversight on our part that we quickly rolled back, but there may have been some instances where this was noticed.
  • Installs not completing – Some of our themes are fully hosted on other sites. Examples include the Chrome Webstore and Addons.Mozilla.org. I know on Chrome, themes went through the install process fine, but the theme never loaded because of the blackout. If it’s not working now, I’d suggest uninstalling the first attempt then reinstalling. It should pull it up fine.
  • Sidebar content missing – This may have been an artifact of the reconfiguration. I saw the outage today and is now working in some themes I’ve checked.

If there are other oddities, or issues you’ve identified, please share.

SOPA – The Long-Term Blackout

Good intentions don’t always make good policy. I’ll admit I’m not versed enough to talk to all aspects of the Stop Online Piracy Act, but for a company that has created an engine allowing anyone to instantly build a Firefox and Internet Explorer browser theme, and publish it to Brand Thunder’s browser theme gallery – it scares the heck out of me.

Despite the legal protections we put in place, like the user agreement stating a user has ownership of all images used in their theme, I’m sure there’s exposure somewhere. Just like with freedom of expression, there are those that will say things you don’t like. With a tool that allows you to express yourself via a browser theme and then share it out, expressions that approach the line of appropriate use will undoubtedly occur. Artistic license, satire or parody, we simply could not afford the legal costs of defending a series of challenges that can come our way.

Whether we willingly or accidentally participated in the SOPA blackout, we all got a taste of what may happen if it comes to reality.

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