Yesterday, New York-based hacker Snipe -- aka Alison Gianotto, aka @snipeyhead on Twitter -- published the project page for something kind of awesome: Downworthy, a free Chrome browser plug-in that automatically "replaces hyperbolic headlines from bombastic viral websites with a slightly more realistic version."
I've been using it on my Chrome browser -- and it kind of works! That is, if it encounters headlines with the right perfectly maddening trigger words or phrases. Per the Downworthy project page:
• "Literally" becomes "Figuratively"
• "Will Blow Your Mind" becomes "Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment"
• "One Weird Trick" becomes "One Piece of Completely Anecdotal Horseshit"
• "Go Viral" becomes "Be Overused So Much That You'll Silently Pray for the Sweet Release of Death to Make it Stop"
• "Can't Even Handle" becomes "Can Totally Handle Without Any Significant Issue"
• "Incredible" becomes "Painfully Ordinary"
• "You Won't Believe" becomes "In All Likelihood, You'll Believe"
... and so on.
Why is Snipe doing this? Because, she writes, "These articles are, in general, not nearly as bad as their titles -- but the titles have become SO overblown, they're meaningless and annoying. But people still click, so the trend continues. Consider this me doing my part to stop the insanity."
In other words, Downworthy is a spot-on bit of media criticism in code form.
A key inspiration for Snipe's plug-in is, obviously, Upworthy, but she also cites Buzzfeed, ViralNova and The Huffington Post as chronic clickbait headline offenders.
Download the plug-in here.
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.