We've all been through this. They crave a McFlurry or a shamrock shake. They drive to McDonald & # 39; s and look forward to being filled with cold and sugary goodness. But when you finally make it to the counter, you'll hear those dreaded, devastating words: "The ice machine is broken."
A few hours ago, a 24-year-old software developer launched McBroken, a website that aims to end such incidents once and for all. A map of all McDonald & # 39; s locations in the US appears on the website, denoted by clusters of dots. Locations with a functioning ice machine receive a green point. Places without one, a red dot. A column to the right compiles statistics – currently 7.54 percent of McDonald's ice cream machines in the US are defective, as is 15.22 percent in New York.
Rashiq Zahid came up with McBroken in the summer. In July, he visited a McDonald's in Berlin's Kreuzberg district and tried to order a McSundae at a touchscreen kiosk – but no ice cream was available. He tried to order through the mobile app but was similarly thwarted. His trip had been in vain.
"I thought something had to be done about it," said Zahid.
So he built a bot.
McBroken will display a map of every McDonald's location in the United States.
Zahid started with the McDonald & # 39; s mobile app, with which you can already place an order at any McDonald & # 39; s location. It works like shopping on Amazon or Grubhub – you put the items you want in a shopping cart and pay when you're ready. If there is no working ice machine in your selected location, you will not be able to add items containing ice cream to your cart. These are marked as "Currently Unavailable".
"I love browsing different apps and just looking at the security features and the internal APIs," said Zahid. “I'm pretty familiar with reverse engineering apps. I said, "Okay, that should be pretty easy."
Click on a point to see when it was last checked.
Select an address to zoom in.
You can also check for fake test sites.
It turned out to be more difficult than he thought. First, he created an API that would try to add a McSundae to the shopping cart from every McDonald's location once a minute. The app found out what he was up to and blocked him – "It was like you can't, you look like a bot," he recalled.
After a night of trial and error, Zahid figured out the magical time frame. Now his bot tries to add a McSundae every 30 minutes. If the bot successfully adds the item, it will tell McBroken that the site's computer is working. If this is not possible, the location is given a red dot. (A Twitter user who claims to be a McDonald's employee has confirmed that the method works.)
Zahid tested McBroken for the first time in Germany at around 1,500 locations. He rode his bike to every location in Berlin and placed manual sundae orders to see if his bot was returning the correct information. It passed with flying colors. Today it is extended to the states.
"I thought it would be pretty interesting for Germany, but it would be amazing for the US, which is basically the capital of McDonald's," Zahid told The Verge.
Within 20 minutes of launch, McBroken received 10,000 visitors. It was sluggish at first and then crashed. "I'm running this on a server that is $ 5 a month so it had to crash," Zahid said. After an hour of troubleshooting that dumped some traffic, Zahid now assures me that the site is "working perfectly".
But he intended the tool to be a joke – and is shocked to hear people think it's legitimately useful. "I just did it for fun," said Zahid. "But people were like, 'Wow, that's the best I've seen all week. "
Who knows if McDonalds will eventually cease operations – but David Tovar, McDonald's vice president of US communications, seems to support this. "Only a true @Mcdonalds fan would go out of their way to help customers get our delicious ice cream!" he tweeted tonight. For now, keep an eye on McBroken to prevent McDonalds from breaking your heart.