What started as a joke for a 24-year-old software engineer is today a legitimate website to track broken ice-cream machines in McDonald’s outlets throughout the US. Rashiq Zahid, a reverse engineer, one day visited McDonald’s in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin in the hopes to get some ice cream. When he tried ordering a sundae from the touchscreen kiosk, it showed no ice cream was available. He tried doing so from the McDonald’s app but was still out of luck.
“I love poking around in different apps and just looking at the security features and the internal APIs,” Zahid told The Verge. “I am pretty familiar with how to reverse-engineer apps.” Zahid built a bot and created an API that attempted to add a McSundae from every McDonald’s location to its cart once every minute. Soon after, he was blocked by the app that recognised it was a bot’s doing.
Zahid then tweaked the time-frame and set it to add an ice cream sundae from every McDonald’s outlet every 30 minutes. If the bot successfully adds the item, it lets McBroken know that the location’s machine is working. If it can’t, the location gets a red dot, as per sources who confirmed the authenticity of the method to The Verge.
So now, when users visit mcbroken.com, they see a map of every McDonald’s location in the US, denoted by clusters of dots. The locations with a working ice-cream machine get a green dot and those without one get a red dot. Columns on the right-hand side show statistics of broken ice-cream machines in the US.
Zahid first tested the bot in Germany bicycling his way through 1500 locations of McDonald’s placing orders manually. When he saw positive results he thought of expanding the website to the states.
Zahid told the publication that he was running McBroken on a server that cost him $5 a month. He started McBroken just for fun but within 20 minutes of its launch, the website crashed because it had 10,000 visitors. However, after offloading some traffic Zahid noted that the website now runs perfectly.