One programmer reverse-engineered the McDonald’s app to find all of its broken ice cream machines

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McBroken is keeping track of all McDonald's ice cream machines.

Everyone knows the joke about McDonald’s ice cream machines always being broken. At this point, it’s almost more surprising when you can get a cone or McFlurry. One 24-year-old software engineer has had enough.

Rashiq Zahid just launched McBroken, a website that’s designed to keep track of every broken McDonald’s ice cream machine in the nation. At the time of this writing, 8.76 percent of the company’s U.S. locations have a broken ice cream machine.

Finding the Truth

It’s hard to quantify the disappointment that comes with hearing the phrase “the ice cream machine is broken” when going through the drive-thru with hopes of a sweet treat. With a tool like McBroken, customers won’t have to worry about it.

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Zahid reportedly came up with the idea for McBroken over the summer—when he was bored like the rest of us due to COVID-19 restrictions. In light of the broken ice cream machine problem, he said, “I was like, there must be something that can be done about this.”

So, Zahid set out to build a bot. He started with McDonald’s mobile app, which lets customers place an order ahead of time. It’s worth noting that you must first add items to a “cart” before proceeding to checkout. If an item isn’t available, you can’t add it to your cart.

Though that seems obvious, it plays a key role in how McBroken functions. Zahid reverse-engineered the McDonald’s app, creating an API that allows him to add a McSundae from every McDonald’s location to a cart. Originally, he had the bot do this every minute. However, the app blocked him.

Later, Zahid found that a 30-minute refresh period works flawlessly. If the bot is able to add a McSundae, it notifies McBroken that the machine is working. If not, the location turns into a red dot on the map, signaling that its machine is broken.

Real-World Testing

At first, Zahid tested McBroken in Germany. He personally went to all 1,478 locations in the country to place an order and confirm that the bot was working correctly.

Zahid tells The Verge, “I was like, this would be pretty interesting for Germany, but it would be amazing for the US, which is basically the capital of McDonald’s.”

Indeed it is. Within the first 20 minutes after its launch, McBroken attracted more than 10,000 visitors. Unsurprisingly, the site crashed under that amount of pressure.

Even so, people were quick to take to Twitter to express their praise.

Zahid originally designed the tool as a joke. He says, “I just made it for fun but people were like ‘Wow, this is the best thing I’ve seen this entire week.’”

Although McDonald’s might eventually try to shut the tool down, it looks like the fast-food giant is on board for now. David Tovar, McDonald’s vice president of U.S. communications, tweeted, “Only a true @McDonald’s fan would go to these lengths to help customers get our delicious ice cream!”

Before you head to the drive-thru for an ice cream treat, be sure to check McBroken to avoid being disappointed.

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