Keeping up to speed with the galactic firehouse of daily internet detritus that gets blasted at our eyeballs every minute of every day can be a taxing endeavor. It often involves using RSS readers, Twitter lists, YouTube and Twitch channel notifications, and all-too-frequent email inbox refreshing, among dozens of other methods for staying on top of your favorite internet oddities and sifting through all the junk to find them.
Thankfully, something like Fraidycat now exists.
A free, open source tool released late last year and significantly updated just yesterday, Fraidycat works as a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox or as an app for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It bundles together all of your favorite internet stuff into one easy-to-read page, much like a super-powered RSS reader. The best part is that it’s not algorithmic like the Social Network That Shall Not Be Named.
You just drop a link to a favorite website, label it appropriately, and it pops up on Fraidycat under the tab you want it under and refreshes only as often as you like. The service looks, and feels, like something designed from a bygone internet era that wasn’t dominated by unregulated tech conglomerates with monopolistic holds on the attention economy. And that’s the point.
“Magazines of the past kept us up to date with hundreds of people — celebrities and powerful names. The thing that excited me about the internet was that I could keep up with a whole lot of unknown but wonderfully interesting people,” says creator Kicks Condor in a YouTube video explaining the purpose of Fraidycat. “However, I don’t want some giant news feed of everything. Why is it the current obsession to just dump everything everyone is saying right in your face? I don’t want a giant noisy feed that’s dominated by anyone who posts the most frequently or, worse, the most flagrantly.”
Condor says the point of Fraidycat is to create a sense of nostalgia for a younger, more innocent internet — and to be a useful way to recreate that. “Personal websites were like your home. It wasn’t this busy bustling street corner full of traffic noises and street vendors, or security cams. It was just your stuff, perhaps sloppily hoarded in disarray, but yeah — like a home. Think of watching TV in your bedroom.” Fraidycat, he says, is your “window on the world.”
Say you want to know what a small, niche YouTuber you like has posted in a single week, but you’d rather know what your favorite tech blog posts every day. You can organize your Fraidycat lists to separate those out, so it’s easy to jump between either based on the frequency or by the individual tags you’ve given each respective item. (You can even use emoji as tags.) Fraidycat will pull new info every five to 10 minutes as it comes in for items designated real-time and once every one to two hours for daily ones. (There’s also self explanatory weekly, monthly, and yearly options.)
For me personally, I’m getting into mechanical keyboards, and Fraidycat is turning out to be a great way to organize the various subreddits, YouTube channels, and online stores I now find myself frequenting for new build guides and rare product drops. I also like a lot of specific Instagram accounts related to the hobby, but there’s no easy way to gather a custom Instagram feed on the web in a way similar to a Twitter list that makes it easy to jump to new posts and check in on your favorite accounts. Yet Fraidycat is remarkably good at it.
You can check out the Fraidycat code on Github here, and there’s desktop app versions of the service if you’re into that, although those don’t support sync between various computers. (The browser extension versions sync across devices using your Chrome or Firefox account.) You can also check out the service’s dedicated blog for some of Condor’s planned changes, including a visual overhaul apparently in the works.
It’s really neat, and I’m already finding it a much more deliberate and less distracting way of surfing the modern web that doesn’t just involve me mindlessly refreshing social feeds and closing and opening various browser tabs like a rat in a maze. Less Facebook and more Fraidycat.