(URL) Hacking Facebook

I got a Facebook invite from someone I haven’t seen in years. Awesome! Unfortunately, my long-lost friend used a very old email of mine. This is to be expected; I haven’t seen or corresponded with him in years. Facebook wanted me to sign up using this jurassic email in order to accept the invitation.

I tried logging in to Facebook and looking at the invitation again. No luck. Viewing the invitation while logged in silently failed, sending me to the Facebook home screen, with no error message.

Next, I tried searching for my friend on Facebook. Armed with his first and last name, and his email, I found that there was no way whatsoever to find him. I don’t use any of the popular web-mail programs or email clients that Facebook can import from, because I’m a hella old-school motherfucker.

My options now seem to be limited: spend the time to write a program to create a fake exported address book in one of the formats that Facebook accepts, or download and install a converter, like abook, in order to invite just one person, or just send my friend an email, explaining that Facebook sucks, and by the way, how the hell have you been?

I’m about to send that email, when I notice the invitation URL:


That XXXXXXXXX looks suspiciously like a user id. So, I copy the id onto the facebook user profile URL:


Voila! My friend’s profile, complete with a button to add him as a friend on Facebook.

Why is this so hard? What would be wrong with sending me a link to his profile in email, or detecting that I’m already logged in and showing me his profile rather that silently failing when I click on the invitation? Why can’t I just type in his name or his email and add him that way?

Facebook started out focused on the somewhat closed, school-oriented social scene, so the lack of ability to add people outside of preordained networks made some amount of sense, at some point. But they are clearly going for the whole market now, so it’s time to drop the draconian network boundaries entirely. The vast majority of my friends aren’t friends from past universities or previous jobs — they are friends from Real Life. No wonder I only have a paltry three friends on Facebook. Hell, I even have more friends on LinkedIn, and I hate LinkedIn.

What’s that? Facebook hasn’t noticed this problem because their users don’t have real lives? Come on, I’m sure that can’t be true. At least not anymore.