Estimated reading time: 8 minute(s)

In this post, I will examine ProxiTok, an alternative front-end for the Chinese Communist Party’s spyware/social media platform, TikTok. ProxiTok is an alternative front-end for TikTok in the same way that the better known Invidious is an alternative front-end for YouTube and Nitter is an alternative front-end to Twitter. While no one should use TikTok because TikTok should not exist (ban it in the interim), our own Victor V. Gurbo is an unfortunate TikTok-user and one-time TikTok celebrity.

Homepage for the official ProxiTok instance.  ProxiTok is a privacy-centric front-end for TikTok.
ProxiTok’s official instance homepage as seen in the Badwolf web browser.

Thus, in addition to describing in broad terms what ProxiTok is and how it works, I will provide specific guidance on following Victor’s TikTok content without having to interact directly with a social media platform that is slightly less reputable than OnlyFans.

What is ProxiTok?

ProxiTok is a free and open source alternative front-end to TikTok created by Mr. Pablo Ferreiro.

ProxiTok is installed on a web server. A user who wants to view a video on TikTok can search for the video through a ProxiTok instance (meaning a server which has ProxiTok installed). The ProxiTok Readme explains how this enhances privacy for the end-user:

All requests made to TikTok are server-side, so you will never connect with their servers.

ProxiTok Readme

I took a look at the advanced menu for my ad and script blocker, uBlock Origin, with ProxiTok open to Victor’s profile on the official ProxiTok instance (see below for list of instances).

uBlock Origin advanced pane for the official ProxiTok instance.  ProxiTok is a privacy-centric front-end for TikTok.
My uBlock Origin advanced settings menu with Victor’s profile in ProxiTok as seen in Ungoogled-Chromiium.

As you can see, ProxiTok is not making any third party requests on my end. The only scripts I needed to allow were for the host domain itself. I would offer a comparison to visiting the same content on TikTok, but I am not going to visit TikTok and, in any event, I blocked all scripts coming from TikTok’s domain globally. Moreover, I am not going to go through the one-click trouble of reversing that even temporarily.

ProxiTok providers the following functionality:

  • See feed for a specific user
  • See trending and discovery tab
  • See tags
  • See video by ID
  • Themes
  • RSS feeds for individual users (add /rss to the URL)

There are two ways to use ProxiTok. Firstly, because ProxiTok is open source and the source code is available, one can install ProxiTok on his or her own server and run an instance. In theory, this is the most privacy-friendly way to use ProxiTok because it does not involve any third party. You can find install instructions here.

However, most people do not have the skill or inclination to run their own ProxiTok instance. People who do not want to run their own ProxiTok instances can instead use a public instance. As of May 14, 2022, there are two public instances listed on the ProxiTok GitHub page:

Both instances worked as expected in my quick tests. For purpose of demonstrations in this article, I will use the official instance. The second provider, Pussthecat, provides a large number of similar alternative front-end services to the public.

Automatically Turn TikTok Links Into ProxiTok Links

Some people may find themselves faced with nefarious TikTok links sent by misguided friends and family. Intervention is a solution, but intervention takes time. In the interim, there are several ways to automatically redirect TikTok spyware links to their ProxiTok analogues.

Anyone using Firefox, Chrome, or a browser based on either Firefox (e.g., Librewolf) or Chromium (e.g., Chromium, Edge, Brave, Vivaldi, Opera) can install the free and open source LibRedirect extension. LibRedirect ihas options to redirect links to a number of services to their privacy-friendly alternatives. TikTok is one of the included services. I use this extension on Firefox primarily to redirect links to Reddit and Twitter.

The ProxiTok GitHub page also recommends Redirector, but this extension requires a touch of manual intervention. I have not personally tried it.

At this time, I am not aware of mobile apps that automatically cover ProxiTok – but in light of the fact that it is a new piece of software, there may be more apps that include it along with the more popular redirections such as Twitter to Nitter, Reddit to Libreddit, and Instagram to Bibliogram.

A Note on Public Instances

I only tried ProxiTok briefly with Victor’s profile for the purpose of writing this article. I do not expect to have any occasion to rely on it going forward since I do not deal or traffic in links to TikTok. However, I do use several other alternative front-ends semi-regularly, most often Nitter (for Twitter), Libreddit (for Reddit), and Invidious (for YouTube). Specific front-ends are not always reliable. For example, social media platforms can sometimes block requests from a specific server. Servers also come and go since they are largely funded by donations or run as hobby projects. In the case of Nitter, Libreddit, and Invidious, there are enough instances such that if one is down, another is almost surely working. However, some social media platforms seem more resistant than others. Bibliogram, an alternative to Instagram, has some significant limitations that have shown up in the small number of times I had cause to use it (see example), and I have found that the extant instances are often blocked by Instagram.

ProxiTok is, as of May 14, 2022, still a relatively young project. With only two public instances (as of the present date), it could have reliability issues if the TikTok team in Beijing decides it is worth the effort to try to block requests from ProxiTok instances. This could, in theory, become more of an issue if ProxiTok achieves some degree of popularity (however, note that all of these alternative front-ends are very niche).

(Because no one in the United States seems inclined to do anything, I call upon team TikTok itself to look into whether blocking access to TikTok would be a good business approach.)

I primarily note this for people who decide to follow RSS feeds using ProxiTok. If an instance goes down or otherwise has difficulty, RSS feed fetching may be delayed or otherwise not instantaneous. For those relying on an RSS feed for one reason or another, it may be a good idea to have a backup instance or two handy to replace a particular feed in the event of an issue.

Using ProxiTok to Follow Victor V. Gurbo on TikTok

Our own Victor V. Gurbo uses TikTok. To his credit, he recognizes that he has a problem.

While it is unfortunate that Victor is on TikTok, he produces much better content on the platform than most of its other users. Unfortunately, I am not sure that the majority of TikTok’s user-base is well-inclined to the music of a singer who sells merchandise touting a critical review of his “generic dadrock” (I am a proud owner of said merchandise). (Moreover, I am not sure that the nefarious powers that be behind TikTok are particularly interested in pushing folk music content onto foreign youth.) Many potential followers of Victor V. Gurbo’s TikTok content are precluded from following him by virtue of their good sense to not open accounts with the Chinese Communist Party. For these fine people who are both fans of Victor V. Gurbo and not TikTok users, ProxiTok offers a solution.

To start, let us go to a public ProxiTok instance. For this example, I will use the official instance.

We are greeted by a search box. In addition to search, you can also discover content or see what is trending. You should never use discover or trending because TikTok is a malevolent entity. Instead, we are going to use a search. You can search by username, tag, music ID, or video ID. I assume that the latter two searches apply if you know the specific TikTok (so-called) content that you are looking for. Searching by tag is probably a bad idea, both because of tag spam and also because TikTok is an abomination.

ProxiTok official instance homepage.  ProxiTok is a privacy-centric front-end for TikTok.

I know Victor’s TikTok username because he uses the same username for everything and I saw it in one of his 2020 New Leaf Journal articles. Thus, let us perform a username search for victorvgurbo.

Searching for Victor V. Gurbo's TikTok profile on the official ProxiTok instance.  ProxiTok is a privacy-centric front-end for TikTok.

Let us see the result.

Victor V. Gurbo's TikTok profile as seen through ProxiTok.  ProxiTok is a privacy-centric front-end for TikTok.
I zoomed out a bit to get part of the first video in the capture. Although it is hard to read – note the RSS feed link under “victorvgurbo” near the top of the page.

That is indeed our own Victor V. Gurbo on ProxiTok. You can even download Victor’s videos to watch locally or save it in your personal collection of Victor V. Gurbo content and memorabilia.

Victor V. Gurbo's TikTok profile as seen through ProxiTok.  ProxiTok is a privacy-centric front-end for TikTok.
The bottom of the first page of Victor’s profile on ProxiTok. Here, you see his arm and a guitar in the video. Under the video, you have three buttons. A link to the video on ProxiTok, the link to the video on TikTok (don’t click that), and a download button to download the video onto your own device. The next button (bottom left) takes you to the next page of Victor’s content – I confirmed that the next page also loads.

Victor has not been posting much to TikTok lately. Thank goodness for that. But he does have (as of May 14, 2022) 104 videos that you can enjoy through ProxiTok.

ProxiTok RSS Feeds

One of ProxiTok’s best features in very limited cases (you do not need much TikTok in your feed collection) is its RSS functionality. I have made it no secret that I am a fan of consuming content through RSS and Atom feeds and also that I view feeds as an alternative to social media newsfeeds. If you are not familiar with feeds, I wrote a concise introduction to the world of RSS, Atom, and feed readers. With the Victor V. Gurbo ProxiTok RSS feed, you can receive Victor’s newest content in your RSS feed reader without ever needing to refresh his ProxiTok profile. In order to obtain an RSS feed for a user in ProxiTok, you append /rss to the end of the URL. Let us use Victor as our example.

Victor’s profile on the Official ProxiTok instance is: https://proxitok.herokuapp.com/@victorvgurbo

Thus, Victor’s ProxiTok RSS feed from the Official instance is: https://proxitok.herokuapp.com/@victorvgurbo/rss

The principle for obtaining RSS feeds is the same with other instances. For example, if you are using Pussthecat instead of the Official instance, Victor’s ProxiTok profile is found at https://proxitok.pussthecat.org/@victorvgurbo, and his RSS feed is https://proxitok.pussthecat.org/@victorvgurbo/rss.

If you add Victor’s RSS feed to your feed reader, you will receive his new TikTok posts (i.e., offerings to Chairman Xi) in your feed reader. I maintain a list of free and open source feed readers for all platforms for those of you who do not already have a feed reading solution.

Conclusion

I have said before that no great superpower in history other than the current United States would countenance a foreign adversary running a social experiment on its youngest citizens. But amongst the deluge of terrible content and foreign psy-ops are some misguided talented creators like Victor, trying to make their way through the dark alleys of social media’s most tawdry red light district. While those who have not already lost their way are well-advised to not buy a one-way ticket to a platform that almost makes Facebook and Twitter look well-inclined toward the common good, ProxiTok provides a means for viewing their good content from afar (very afar). ProxiTok also serves as a defense mechanism for people who are assailed by TikTok links sent by friends and family but are not ready to have what could be a very difficult conversation.

I tip my hat to the developer, Mr. Pablo Ferreiro, for the impressive work. You can see ProxiTok and all of his other projects on GitHub.

For additional ProxiTok content, I recommend a short video by Mr. Brodie Robertson.