List of alternative frontends to popular web sites and services
I don't know if anyone else has made this before, so I just kind of went ahead and did it: a list of alternative frontends to popular websites in Notabug.org
Free and federated websites and services are a great idea, but let's face it: most of them still lack the trove of content that closed data silos like Google and Facebook own. However, there are still some ways that you can still make use of them without completely compromising your privacy: use an alternative frontend.
These are 3rd-party websites that either scrape or use the main service's API to receive and present the same data you'd find there, minus all the tracking and usually in a much more lightweight manner. The very best of these allow you to browse the website almost completely anonymously.
The trade off is usually that the service becomes read-only (after all, posting would mean identifying yourself). If this is not an issue (most of the time it isn't for me), then the experience is smooth and straightforward.
This list presents as many alternative frontends as I know of, with a browserless alternative (desktop or command-line program) whenever possible.
The project is under active development and there is a vast ecosystem of instances you can choose from, including hidden Tor services.
- Publicly-listed instances (instance matchmaker)
- Project home and source code
Searx also offers webfeeds for results. You can have them in CSV, RSS or JSON formats for easy parsing or reading. To obtain them, run
From that point and on, it's just a matter of parsing and presenting the content for easy viewing in the terminal.
See Searx above.
You can watch any YouTube video with it by simply substituting the
youtube.com part of the URL with an Invidious instance's address, complete with Playlist playback support. You may additionally create an account in an invidious instance that allows you to save favorites and playlists, as well as revisit watch history with no additional information from you required other than a username/password.
You can choose to only stream the audio (great for listening to music!) by adding
&listen=1 to the end of any Invidious URL. Some instances may also allow explicit downloading of video, but otherwise you can always right-click and save the video or audio through your browser.
The downside is that some livestreams may not work correctly, but fallback links to YouTube are provided in every video. Also, due to the limited number of instances, some may go offline unpredictably.
The project is under active development, but there are not as many public instances available to choose from.
The hacker's way is: install youtube-dl and
mpv then run
mpv --keep-open https://youtube.com/watch?v=YOUR_VIDEO. Will save you a lot of resources with additional configuration of the
mpv command. You can also straight up download the videos with
Programs such as Minitube also are a graphical desktop client for viewing YouTube.
instagram.com bit of the URL with any of the instances' address.
The project seems to be undergoing constant development, but there still seems to be some usability bugs, like trying to view further pages of an Instagram profile (seems to fail starting from page 2). There are also a limited number of public implementations around.
twitter.com with any instance's address in the URL bar, or browse straight to the instance and look for any user or tag.
Nitter presents quite a diverse ecosystem of instances (including hidden services) and is also incredibly configurable from the frontend. I guess the only downside I can point out is that you can't write anything to it (like any other frontend here).
Many programs can use the Twitter API to fetch and post content from your desktop or even the command-line. I've used in the past identicurse, though it seems to be largely abandoned.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to save favorite subreddits or do persistent customization besides choosing a theme yet, but it's still a great way to browse through Reddit anonymously. The instance ecosystem is still very small as of January 2021, so instance blocking can still be an issue.
An aggregator page that returns the front page results of Reddit as a proxy, but does not attempt to proxy any of the posts themselves (they open in old.reddit.com).
I'm not sure why would anyone choose to use this over the much more complete Teddit, but it's out there if you need it. The project seems kind of dead (latest commits from 2018)
Generic web proxies
If you don't wish to automatically be tracked by a webpage you don't know or trust but don't have Tor or VPN available, a web proxy might be able to help you - slightly.
You can also indirectly use the Internet Archive as a proxy by prepending
https://web.archive.org/web/ to any address you wish to visit. This is intended for archival process, but can be used to proxy the connection between you and the site. Be careful though, as the Internet Archive is not a CDN and this is not its primary use intended. Be responsible with the requests!
Don't forget federated services!
The fact that these frontend services help out on privacy by no means mean that we should forget about the other huge pillar in the fight for Freedom: producing Free Content.
Having private or anonymous access to content is good, but much much better is to port or create content that is freely available across mutliple servers in the internet without the need to jump any hoops. That's why we need to be actively producing and posting as many new contents as possible to federated services like Mastodon/Pleroma, Diaspora, Peertube.
This is a two-front fight: active and passive approaches are equally needed!
Contribute and help out!
Got any other frontend that I have not covered here? Open an issue at my Notabug.org repo and let me know! I'd love to hear more.
This fight is not over, and it just will keep getting better.
Last updated on 01/06/21