The two online companies, Facebook and Instagram are using their customer’s photos to create computer art. What does this mean, exactly? The social networks convert every uploaded photo in an html page using ASCII characters.
ASCII (The American Standard Code for Information Interchange) is a character-encoding scheme.
These codes represent text in computers, communication equipment, and other devices that use text. Most modern character-encoding schemes are based on ASCII, though they support many additional characters, according to Wikipedia.
Now, let’s get back to the art part. Imagine having your Facebook or Instagram photo transformed into a piece of ASCII pixel art. Let’s take this photo of The Mona Lisa, for example.
This is how it originally looks like.
And this is how it would look like, using ASCII art-filter.
Now, this is exactly how Facebook or Instagram photos are transformed.
The good news is that you can test this for yourself, following some easy steps.
On Facebook, you can simply right click on their chosen photo, paste the URL link on the address bar, and add “.html” at the end to receive a colored ASCII copy. Another step or so-called ‘trick’ involves adding “.txt” to the end of the URL, to create a black and white version of a photo.
On Instagram, the process might be more complicated, but bears a definite result. You have to right click on the image for “view page source”. You could easily look for the URL there if you search (Shortcut: CTRL + F) by keyword “jpg”. If you copy paste the URL and add “.html” should be enough.
And there it is! The simple recipe for anyone who wants to see what their snapshots would have looked like on a 1980s Mac or MS-DOS PC.
It’s good to know that the revelatory discovery came from Mathias Bynens, a web standards enthusiast, who posted about it on his Twitter account. Bynens is the one that also points out the difference of results, depending on the adding of “.html” or “.txt” to the image URL.
Of course that there are some mysteries regarding this new discovery: Why would anyone follow the process, just to see the result of their photo transformed in bits and pieces? Why would Facebook keep this feature hidden to the public as if it’s part of something big?
The answer remains to be find out in the future. However, the artsy ASCII doesn’t look that bad and it can be a way of having fun, when one gets too bored and wants to see how their photos would look like with a touch of this magic.