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Downworthy: the Chrome extension that makes viral headlines more realistic

“Here’s A Fact About Sharks And Humans That’ll Stay With You Every Hour On The Hour Today”. “163 Years Ago, A Former Slave Rocked The World With These Words.” “He Dropped His Dog Off At The Sitter. What Happened Next Is Every Pet Owner’s Worst Nightmare.” Yes, these are the headlines you’ve probably seen littering your favourite social media site. Perhaps you’ve even been tempted to click on them during your most recent visit to sites like Buzzfeed, Upworthy and ViralNova. Are you sick of all the clickbait? Well, you’re not the only one.

Developer Alison Gianotto (“Snipe”) is doing her part “to stop the insanity” of silly and annoying headlines by creating a Chrome extension that replaces the viral headlines on your favourite time-wasting site with less hyperbolic versions.

For example, something like “12 Things More Likely To Kill You Than A Shark” becomes “Inane Listicle of 12 Things You’ve Already Seen Somewhere Else More Likely To Kill You Than A Shark.” “It Took A 6 Year Old Boy To Remind Me What True Friendship Is. This Is Amazing” becomes “It Took A 6 Year Old Boy To Remind Me What True Friendship Is. This Is Barely Noticeable.” “This Guy Was Exploring His Grandpa’s Attic. What He Found Is Mysteriously Awesome… Whoa” is transformed into the far less interesting “This Guy Was Exploring His Grandpa’s Attic. What He Found Is Mysteriously Probably Slightly Less Boring Than Working… Whoa.”

While the extension does have the ability to make some headlines incoherent, depending on their structure, it has some very entertaining substitutions which work on the websites themselves as well as on social media. Here are a few examples:

  • “Absolutely” becomes “Moderately”
  • “Amazing” becomes “Barely Noticeable”
  • “can change your life” becomes “Will Not Change Your Life in ANY Meaningful Way”
  • “Doesn’t want you to see” becomes “Doesn’t Really Care If You See”
  • “Go Viral” becomes “Be Overused So Much That You’ll Silently Pray for the Sweet Release of Death to Make it Stop”
  • “OMG” becomes “No One Cares. At All”
  • “Stop What You’re Doing” becomes “Bookmark Now and Later Completely Forget About”
  • “Restored My Faith In Humanity” becomes “Affected Me In No Meangingful Way Whatsoever”

Now if you’ll excuse us, we’ve just clicked on a link for a super viral video about a dog. It promises to completely change the way we view our lives. Here’s hoping.

Author | Lauren Granger

Lauren Granger
While studying towards her Bachelor of Journalism degree at Rhodes University, Lauren gave into her fascination with everything digital. As she was more interested in creeping tech sites and Twitter than she was in picking up one of those printed things called 'newspapers', she decided to specialise in... More