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A screen grab from Facebook. (Dan Kitwood/2009 Getty Images)
A screen grab from Facebook. (Dan Kitwood/2009 Getty Images)

Is Facebook, Breakup Notifier relationship on again? Add to ...

Like too many high-school romances, the relationship between social-networking site Facebook and the hottest new application, Breakup Notifier, was an on-again, off-again affair.

But after a very public split, the two are showing signs of reconciling.

Facebook has said it is in talks with the developer of the popular app, which allowed people to get an instant notification when the object of their affections changed their relationship status. It amassed millions of users within days of launching.

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"I built Breakup Notifier as a bit of a joke this weekend, and it just took off. We're working with Facebook right now to get it reinstated," creator Dan Loewenherz, a 24-year-old computer programmer from Beverly Hills, Calif., said in an e-mail on Thursday.

Facebook shut down the application just three days after it launched. "In this particular case, Breakup Notifier triggered one of our automated systems," a statement from Facebook said. "We're currently looking into the issue and have reached out to the developer."

But one social-trend media watcher wondered whether the shutdown was less about the application putting a strain on Facebook's servers and more about concern over privacy violations.

"My first instinct is to say that, culturally speaking, this is getting very close to a violation of their terms of service. They have pulled the plug before on viral campaigns and apps that violate their privacy standards for users," said Sidneyeve Matrix, a media professor at Queen's University.

In this case, Breakup Notifier, which launched last Saturday, immediately amassed more than three million users, according to popular technology blog TechCrunch.com. The tagline of the app: "You like someone. They're in a relationship. Be the first to know when they're out of it."

By early Wednesday morning, Facebook had blocked the app.

News that the breakup app was disabled broke on Twitter. Since then, Mr. Loewenherz began a campaign to have Facebook reinstate it. He said he received an e-mail from the company on Thursday morning, saying that it was looking into the issue.

Mr. Loewenherz said the breakup application struck a chord with people and illustrates the changing needs of those who use social media.

"It elevates questions about what Facebook is actually used for," he said. "A lot of people use Facebook to stalk old friends and acquaintances, and the popularity of the app pretty much proves this is the case."

Some may call it stalker behaviour. Prof. Matrix said it's more about "digital curiosity." Users want notifications on everything from relationship-status changes to where their friends are gathering for a coffee.

Facebook applications and other digital platforms now act as a new way to build relationships without the stigma of belonging to an actual online dating website, she said.

"It's indicative of a need. People wanted to have push notifications about status changes in relationships," she said. "When something goes viral like that, then it's speaking to a widespread cultural need."

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