In October, Facebook began testing a News Feed minus the news. The test, which moved all shared articles to a separate feed called Explore, was designed to make it easier to see posts shared by friends and family. That test is still ongoing — but in the meantime, developer Ryan Orbuch is taking the experiment a step further. Feedless, a content blocker he released to the iOS App Store today, removes the entire feed from Facebook on the mobile web. The goal is to render a near-naked version of Facebook that allows people to access a handful of core features while reclaiming the time they once spent lazily thumbing through the feed.
Feedless, which can also remove the feeds from Instagram and Twitter, lets users create posts and check their notifications. The Feedless version of Facebook still allows you to access events, for example, and log into other websites using your Facebook account.
Feedless could be arriving at an opportune time. Amid a broader cultural reckoning over the unintended consequences of massive social networks, a small but growing number of people are adopting technologies that enforce discipline in their app use. For some, the solution is simply to deactivate their accounts and move on. Orbuch is betting that a significant number of people would prefer a less extreme approach: deleting the native apps for social networks, restricting mobile usage to Safari, and radically limiting what shows up in the web version of the service.
“I started deleting the apps from my phone, and didn’t really miss it very much.”
Orbuch said he got the idea for Feedless from having been a longtime user of News Feed Eradicator, a Chrome extension that performs a similar function on the desktop. The extension, which is free, has more than 140,000 users. After installing it, Orbuch says, “I realized how much less stressed I was. The contrast was very clear. I started deleting the apps from my phone, and didn’t really miss it very much.”
Still, there were moments where he wished he could fire off a quick message, or check his notifications, while away from his laptop. That led him to build Feedless, which he says is of a piece with similar software-based efforts to help people manage their time.
On Mac, there are apps like RescueTime and Self Control, which track the time you spend on apps and websites. On mobile devices, people have turned to changing their phone screens to grayscale in an effort to make them less alluring. (Orbuch does this sometimes, he told me, using the iPhone’s accessibility settings so that he can turn the display gray by triple-clicking the home button.)
Install Feedless on your iOS device and it will search for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If they’re installed, Feedless invites you to delete them. It will block content on Facebook for free; to add Instagram and Twitter, the app charges $9.99 annual (and separate) subscription fees.
On one hand, there’s something potentially comical about asking people to pay for the privilege of not looking at tweets. On the other, Orbuch predicted that a new wave of technology would emerge to help people manage their relationships with apps. “This is just the very beginning,” Orbuch says. “There’s going to be a lot in this space. I don’t know if there’s going to be a business in it, but people are going to try things.”
Feedless is now available on iOS.