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Facebook and Instagram are creating hidden ASCII art with your pictures

By Shawn Knight ยท 20 replies
Jan 29, 2016
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  1. Here's something you probably didn't know about Facebook and Instagram. Images uploaded to the services are automatically creating ASCII art versions of those photos.

    The nifty trick was first discovered by Mathias Bynens on Twitter. It's unclear exactly why Facebook is doing this but it's neat nevertheless.

    To give it a try yourself, simply locate the URL of an image on Facebook or Instagram. Copy the URL, open a new browser window and past the URL in the address bar. Then, simply add .html to the end of the image URL to get a color ASCII version or .txt for a black and white variant.

    Do note that the image must be public. My experience, at least with Facebook images, is that it only works with URLs that end in .jpg. If there are any additional characters after .jpg then it won't work, even if you delete the extra characters first. It's also a bit harder to find URLs on Instagram as you can't simply right-click to get the code. In Chrome, for example, you'll need to right-click then click Inspect and hunt down the URL code ending with .jpg.

    Have you had any luck with the ASCII art? Why do you think Facebook is even doing this to images? Chime in with your thoughts in the comments section below.

    Permalink to story.

  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,239   +1,499

    Facebook has you...
  3. FF222

    FF222 TS Booster Posts: 85   +29

    Definitively works on Instagram, but definitely does not work on Facebook.

    Shawn, could you supply a sample set of FB urls which work for you?
  4. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 7,016   +2,297

    I doubt this affects me. It must be because I couldn't be bothered having any accounts with social networking sites. The one I did have, Google+, I deleted a long time ago without even looking at it, let alone using it.
    BMfan likes this.
  5. Kraemepoo

    Kraemepoo TS Enthusiast Posts: 30

    Only tried Facebook, but it worked the one image I tried it on. Have to take the image location, not the page address you're viewing the image on.
  6. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,853   +3,070

    I supposedly deleted my Facebook account. One day five years later I decided to see if it was still there. All I had to do was login to activate my account again. Your Google+ account is probably still there as well.
  7. SXTC777

    SXTC777 TS Rookie

    The point of this coding is that Facebook will be able to store all your data while using less storage space. The coding can be enhanced to get the original colors back without loss of quality. So more spying on you at less expense.
  8. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,853   +3,070

    Not likely.

    And this is not possible.
  9. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,239   +1,499

    I think you misunderstood my quote from The Matrix :)
  10. spacebug

    spacebug TS Rookie

    Then you most likely did not delete your account but only deactivated it.
    In the menues on Facebook, there are only a link to deactivate it, not delete it.
    To really delete your account you need to go to
    After pressing delete account you have to wait 14 days. If you login within 14 days your account will activate and not be deleted.
    Skidmarksdeluxe likes this.
  11. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 7,016   +2,297

    You're probably correct. I'm not too sure about FB, I haven't tried logging in again after I closed my account but G+ is merely hidden.
    Edit: I tried logging in with my details but it says no records exist. That didn't stop them from prompting me to sign up, again.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2016
  12. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 7,016   +2,297

    Thanks for the heads up but I did delete the account. That's not to say FB doesn't have all my details on record still, they most likely still have.
  13. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,853   +3,070

    You must be confusing the way things were and the way they are now. And on that note I have no idea if anything changed. Now to repeat myself, I did opt to delete the account and I did go 5 years without trying to log back in. I know the difference between deactivate and delete. The option I selected was not deactivate. I was furious over the introduction of the Timeline. My fury kept me from wanting to login, until I completely forgot about how things were without Timeline.
  14. deemon

    deemon TS Addict Posts: 225   +59

    Not working in facebook. not sure what you have to do to make it work.
  15. FF222

    FF222 TS Booster Posts: 85   +29

    I know that. Still, I couldn't find a single image that would have worked, while on Instagram it worked with all images I've tried. Based on that I'd say the info regarding this working on FB images is just plain false.
  16. SXTC777

    SXTC777 TS Rookie

    The same was said about the invention of Electricity and still they did it.
    It's not because Theory based on current tech doesn't allow it, that new technoligy won't.
    Don't forget Facebook is testing new software like facial recognition and they are very good at it.
  17. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,853   +3,070

    So I'm getting into a conversation with you on how taking away information from a picture will not keep it loss-less. You should be able to see that on your own. Your analogy of inventing electricity is pathetic. You might as well compare the discovery of electricity to removing 2 cups from a gallon, while suggesting you will maintain the full gallon.
    You were the one that mentioned "without loss of quality". Most images are already compressed to the point of loosing quality, if less storage space is used.
  18. SXTC777

    SXTC777 TS Rookie

    I only use pathetic examples if I'm fully sure I'm talking to the same type of people :p
  19. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,853   +3,070

    You should have started that comment with "Riddle me this".
  20. SXTC777

    SXTC777 TS Rookie

    I could have, but then you would come up with the opposite answer :p

    Anyway you know damn well what I mean when I talk "without loss of quality".
    It's like turning a png file into a jpg file. Sure there is a loss of quality but your eyes will barely be able to notice the diffirence and that is what I mean't. They'd be able to recognice everything in the picture well enough for it to count as an original, eventhough it isn't entirely the same quality. But seriously, why count something that you can't behold anyway... I don't talk in "theory" since that would be the *****ic way to do it. I talk in practice and that is where you get to the point where they can store low sized pictures with acceptable quality. Not to mention the fact that there are forums that have options to resize a smaller pic twice its size, and you don't even notice quality loss on those too.
  21. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,853   +3,070

    I'd love to see them transform the Ascii image above back and get better quality than the 1.5 KB image (which you seem to think is acceptable quality) I just uploaded. Which I am assuming is no where near the original quality. A color coded ascii character will never give you back the original image detail of that character space. You might as well look at the character space as one pixel. I doubt you could interpret 4 pixels from one ascii character, much less 50 or more for that char space.


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