A programmer made a plug-in to tone down Upworthy-style headlines. What happened next will restore your faith in the Internet.


Downworthy’s version of a recent post on Viral Nova.

Alison Gianotto is sick of the Upworthy-style headlines that have made CNN a laughingstock in recent days. So Gianotto, a programmer, did something about it.

Enter “Downworthy,” Gianotto’s brilliant and hilarious Chrome plug-in, which automatically changes hyperbolic headlines to their more literal meanings. “This is awesome” becomes “this is probably slightly less boring than working.” “OMG” becomes “yawn.” And it’s not just Upworthy and ViralNova that fall victim to the plug-in — it changes this Washington Post headline to “In Toronto, the EdgeWalk around the CN Tower will figuratively make you edgy.” (In all fairness, we were using “literally” the right way.)

“I think the breaking point for me was when I started to notice legitimate news sources using ‘this one weird trick’ to get page views,” Gianotto said in an e-mail. “Watching places like the Huffington Post slowly turn into Buzzfeed has been hard to watch … Hey, it’s hard to get page views in today’s world, I get it, but imagine how absurd a print newspaper would look with these headlines. We’re all tired of seeing this stuff in our Facebook news feeds. “

Gianotto is also the lady behind a popular site that skewers some of the more annoying cliches of Twitter. We look forward to the next target of her (deserved!) disdain.

Caitlin Dewey is The Post’s digital culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @caitlindewey or subscribe to her daily newsletter on all things Internet. (tinyletter.com/cdewey)

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Caitlin Dewey · January 24, 2014