Yesterday's ViddyHo worm, which spread over Google Talk and Gmail, has been linked by some to Hoan Ton-That, a San Francisco software developer. A very San Francisco software developer.
Ton-That owns the domain name viddyho.com, now offline, which hosted a form asking people to log in with a Google account in order to watch a video. The ViddyHo worm then seized control of their chat and email accounts and sent contacts a disguised link.
Even if Ton-That had nothing to do with ViddyHo, he (or she? how am I supposed to respect this person's deeply nuanced personal concept of gender without hearing explicitly the gender narrative he or she has constructed around a completed sense of self?) would still be an interesting character — a classically quirky yet herd-following San Francisco Web-software entrepreneur. His Twitter profile describes him as an "Anarcho-Transexual [sic] Afro-Chicano American Feminist Studies Major."
Ton-That frequently posted on Twitter about going to Sugarlump, an overwroughtly hip San Francisco "coffee lounge" in a rough-hewn but gentrifying corner of the Mission District, the preferred neighborhood of twentysomething Web developers. HappyAppy's office address is listed as 25 Stillman Street, a classically South of Market location for a startup. (In fact, it was once the home of Socializr, Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams's current company.)
In his work, too, Ton-That has followed the herd. A Google-cached version of Ton-That's blog gives this career biography:
From July 2007 to July 2008, I built 16 Facebook apps (with different codebases) with a combined unique install base of 6 million. In March 2008 the applications had over 150 million page views. In August 2008, I sold the top apps (Have You Ever, Would You Rather, Friend Quiz and Romantic Gifts).
I've also built 8 iPhone apps, notably Expando being the #2 app in September 2008 receiving 4 stars and over 400 reviews.
Ton-That's involvement with Facebook apps tracks precisely the rising and falling arc of Silicon Valley's craze for the social network's add-ons. And at the same time as many, Ton-That jumped from the Facebook-app wave to iPhone apps.
A Harvard Crimson reporter found extensive online links between ViddyHo and Ton-That's software business, HappyAppy. Ton-That hasn't admitted to the hack, or denied it. It's possible that whoever perpetrated the worm also hacked Ton-That's site. But his personal website is now offline, and he hasn't updated his Twitter feed since yesterday afternoon, when the first links between Ton-That and ViddyHo were reported.
Everything about Ton-That's life and work is a screaming stereotype of San Francisco's Web crowd — a bunch of supposed individualists who'd be paralyzed with fear by the idea that they're not living in the right neighborhood, working in the right office, and chasing the right technological trend. That's the irony of Ton-That's involvement with ViddyHo. If he is indeed the perpetrator of the worm, it may make him hated. But it would be the first truly original thing he's done.
(Photo by Terry Chay)