Steve May 23, 2020
Why am I shutting down Kozmos? – Azer Koçulu’s Journal

In this post, I’ll tell the story behind why I’m shutting down Kozmos, a project that I built with love, and a source of monthly passive income.

P.S: This will be also the story of how Google’s Chrome Extensions team can continuously troll developers with take down notices based on false evaluations, and finally take down extensions anyways even if they don’t violate any policies with no notice at all.

Building Kozmos

Back in 2017, I built Kozmos as a result of an experimental web browser project, Kaktüs. My goal was not just to build another bookmarking service, it was to make web browsing better by creating an alternative interface in the new tab screen.

There is two posts about this goal in this blog, feel free to check them out if you’re interested;

TLDR; Kozmos is a service that provides you a new tab extension that works completely offline, stores all your information in your web browser, and finally syncs them up with Kozmos’ servers, so you can access them anywhere.

The Chrome Extension

Kozmos’ Chrome extension only requires access to browser’s tabbing API and also Kozmos’ own website. It does not inject anything to other websites. It periodically syncs your bookmarks with its servers, without exchanging any other data. Furthermore, the whole extension is open source, including the library that syncs up your bookmarks to Kozmos.

Besides of this, people who install Kozmos are the people who pay for it. So, it’s not spyware. I never sold the data. I wanted to get some funding to grow it into the project I was actually dreaming about, however, got a lot of rejections from investors, and some offers weren’t acceptable for me.

Anyhow, besides of the small group of users and myself, my wife also use Kozmos since the beginning. The way Kozmos automatically categorizes and displays bookmarks was actually useful for her during pregnancy. Although it never took off, which I understand and accept, I was always satisfied it as it is, it wasn’t costing me any time but providing value as a tool, in addition to some passive income. I thought it’d just keep going without much maintenance.

The Nightmare

Google’s Chrome Extension team has been giving me a complete nightmare since last two years. They kept sending me robotic take-down notices although the extension was not violating any policies. I was able to deal with all these robotic take down notices by copy pasting my answers until a human being from Chrome extension team could see my answers, and realize that there was nothing wrong with Kozmos’ extension.

Every single e-mail thread started by a take down notice would go like this;

  • Google (Bot): We’ll take your extension down
  • Me: Hey, this must be a mistake
  • Google (Bot): No mistake, review these policies, your extension violates one of them
  • Me: It does not violate any of them, this is a mistake!
  • Google (Finally human): Oh, sorry, a mistake.

Imagine having the same conversation, and starting it over and over from scratch every a few weeks. Robots can afford it, as they are good at repeating, but it was quite stressful for me as I had to deal with it besides of a full time job, being a father of a toddler. These e-mails became quite exhausting for me, and there was no way to stop them.

The Final Touch

Finally, Google took Kozmos’ Chrome Extension down a few months ago. This time, there was no notice e-mail at all. It was taken down, and there was no clear reason behind it, no notice, nothing. Google, a company that violates privacy of millions of people, took my hard work down without any explanation. And when they did this, they could access all the e-mail threads of their team admitting that Kozmos’ extension did not violate any policy but their robots actually made poor conclusions.

Obviously, Google doesn’t care about the policies they wrote. They want to take down, they can take down.

This was already my second time to publish Kozmos’ extension in the store, with second account that I created and paid for (Google charges extension developers 5$ initial fee).

Moving On

Either I’d create the third account & re-submit, deal with all these bullying executed by Google’s idiotic algorithms until one day they take my extension down without any notice again and again, or, simply I just shut Kozmos down.

The project I built alone by programming the every single line of it, the project I organized community events for and made tens of embarrassing pitches about, the project I spent days shooting and editing videos to promote it… will be completely gone!

And I appreciate to have such a milestone. Not winning anything but losing all together. What’s left for me is still more than enough anyways; all the learnings and the experience and of course, all the people I met thanks to making this project.

Finally. Here is a video I shot to promote Kozmos 3 years ago.

Thanks for reading.

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