The day I accidentally built a nudity/porn platform

I didn’t know that my next project will turn into a nudity platform and a home for spammers. But it did happen while I wasn’t paying attention. And here are the details.

For the next 5/10 years, I’ve decided that my mission will be: “Can a Moroccan build an online business and make a living from Morocco?“. I currently launch multiple projects and give them some time to take off. My blog remote.ma, my jobs board okjob.io, and other projects are all examples of this. The project I’m talking about today, was also serving the same purpose in theory, but it was a flop.

That project is mylink.fyi, a personal and unique link for all your other links. I built it during my weekends given I already have a full-time job and it took me two months approximately. It’s like linktree and other competitors, but I tried to make it different. No ads, no logo, a clean interface, a 100% score in performance… My idea was: take a competitor product, remove all features you don’t need, and make it crazy fast. You have a 14 days free trial to test it out, but you need to upgrade your account afterwards.

I launched it in February 2020 with a completely different identity. I took my name, and thus my followers and my authority, out of the equation. I wanted to replicate “someone starting from scratch” as close as possible. I did use the service for my links (and remote.ma‘s links) but I never advertised the service on my personal account. You can see the Product Hunt launch, and the imaginary Twitter account I created.

Given how I built the app, I optimized it in a way I’ll only pay hosting fees when the site is having a lot of traffic. Like 1M+ visits per month. So I forgot about it, and kept an eye on the bills I get. Two weeks after launch, I had 100 users. No premium account.

Three months went by with 0$ bills. But in June, I received my non-zero bill, it’s exciting the app is taking off! I logged to Firebase (the infrastructure I’m using) and found a total of 1000 users! Wow, that’s a lot.

I took a look at the emails, and quickly saw that something was off. I’ve seen multiple accounts with the same email structure, something like emily123@gmail.com, emily456@gmail.com… I knew something isn’t right given there is a lot of them. So I decided to take a closer look and see the links they are sharing.

That’s when I discovered they were sharing porn and nudes links. These links aren’t permitted on social media, so they used mylink.fyi to “shadow” them. For these platforms, they are mylink.fyi links. But once you visit it, you’ll see a link for the banned site. There were hundreds of accounts doing this. And new ones get created every day. Once the trial period is over, they create a new email, a new account, and then repeat the same process. Oups!

I decided to remove all my links from the platform given it’s probably known for “porn and nudes” now. I logged to Instagram, and got a weird message: “Your profile link is not working“. I didn’t know what that means, but once I visited my profile, I’ve seen I can’t click on the mylink.fyi link. Wow, what’s that? I visited my other profile, and got the same message and the same problem! I later discovered that Instagram banned all mylink.fyi links from the platform. A customer also confirmed to me via email that Snapchat started blocking links. Heh, I’m banned by Instagram and Snapchat! From all scenarios I had in mind, this is not something I prepared for.

The first thing I tried is reducing the trial period from 14 days to 5 days. I was hoping I’ll make them stop. But nothing changed, I can’t outplay them. Damn it! Other solutions include: requiring credit cards for trial periods, ban all adult content from the platform… But they all require me to put extra effort in the project. And I don’t have time for that.

I disabled signups on mylink.fyi for now, and after all trials reach their end, I’ll take the service off. If you’re interested in acquiring the domain name, and/or the app, let’s talk.

That’s it for your daily dose of weird Internet anecdotes.

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11 Comments

  1. Hi Ahmed,

    Pleasure to read you again, and what a story! I have to admit the “new email” notification caught my attention haha, props for that title! 😀

    Amine

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The same thing happened to me when I built a URL shortening service (hop.im) few years back. I tried using a blacklist but it was hard to keep up so I ended up closing the service.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reminds me of a time I created a forum for Xbox way back in ~2011. I checked back a few months later and had like 20,000 users, all of which were posting spam and porn links, even though the forum had a basic captcha (it was MyBB or whatever the open source PHP forum was called). I was in high school – I panicked and just disabled the entire forum, lol. It was a cesspool.

    Lesson: expect your tool/project to be abused and prepare for that. Now-a-days a google recaptcha would be sufficient in the forum case, although spam and bots could still be posted and created. Always takes a little moderation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel you.

    The vast majority of comments on my blogs are spam and porn. I moderate all of them manually – no comment gets on my blog without me saying its ok.

    I’ve tried to make it easier to filter through and find the genuine comments, but they’re rare.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I built a URL shortening platform that got 1M+ page views per month. Had to shut it down after a year cause people used it for fraud. They would make urls like h.io/getLoans and scam people. I got scared and closed the platform cause some people who lost their money to the scams were sending me emails.

    Like

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