Did you know that Facebook and Instagram both have a “secret” feature that converts your photos into ASCII art? By doing a slight tweak to the URLs of photos, you can view them as color and black and white versions that are made up of letters.
While the feature has reportedly been around for a while now, it started getting widespread attention this week after being shared by developer Mathias Bynens:
Take any Facebook/Instagram photo URL.
? append `.txt` → ASCII art
? append `.html` → colored ASCII art
— Mathias Bynens (@mathias) January 28, 2016
The side-by-side image above shows the example Bynens Tweeted. As he says, the trick itself is extremely simple. If this is your ordinary URL from Instagram or Facebook…
…simply tack on .txt to see the black and white ASCII version:
…or tack on .html to see the color ASCII conversion:
The process is identical for Facebook photos (after all, Facebook owns Instagram). Here’s a before-and-after of the conversation done on Mark Zuckerberg’s profile picture:
Doing the conversion is the easy part. Obtaining the original image URL is more tricky. For Instagram, you can view the source code (or inspect) in your browser and look for it there. And on Facebook, right clicking images didn’t provide the correct URL format in our tests.
But if you’re able to figure out the URL side of things, this is a fun little feature you can play around with.