Operation Overlord

I didn't plan to release Overlord on the 70th anniversary of D-Day (the beginning of the Battle of Normandy, code-named Operation Overlord). It just kind of worked out that way, and I'm ok with it.

Overlord is a web browser extension for Chrome that, once installed, changes the text of every website you visit and makes it a little more like the truth. I won't say what all of the changes are, but to give you a hint, look at the text of the Overlord launch page, install the extension, then look at it again.

First, I wanted to make something satirical and dark to capture some of my anger that bubbles up around both chest-thumping capital worship and Orwellian doublespeak employed effortlessly by... well, everyone.

Second, and most importantly, I wanted the piece I made to be able to fade into a hegemonic mode. For example, I've been running Overlord for a while now, and I forgot about it. That's the kicker, when you forget about it, it gets scary... you forget there's this thing running in the background that transforms the common parlance on the fly, and the substitutions it makes end up fitting transparently into what you're reading until it seems just absurd enough to shock you into realizing how deeply manipulative language can be. I mean, duh, we all know this intellectually. But it's easy to forget, and I wanted to spark the emotional, visceral moment of realizing.

So, as a work of tech, it might be merely clever. But as an artwork (which is what I intend it to be), it doesn't have its effect until you install it, forget about it, and then use the web normally for a few days. The second part of Overlord is a campaign... "Operation Overlord." This is where you come in. If you have access to other computers, labs, libraries, etc, where you are allowed to instal Chrome extensions—install Overlord. And just leave it there. Forget about it and let's see what happens.

The execution is simple in theory, it's based on a convoluted set of regular expressions that looks for phrasings and replaces them. One of my favorites in this class of extensions is Steven Frank's wonderful "Cloud-to-Butt" extension that replaces every occurrence of "the cloud" with "my butt." I always keep that installed. But for this, it was important for it to be as user-facing as possible, so that meant putting it on the Google Chrome Store, installable with one click, complete with icons and screenshots and promo graphics.

I hope you'll give it a try, and leave a rating on the Chrome store as well, that's the best way to make sure other people know about it.