The picture above may seem a little blurry, but if you move your face away from your screen just a bit, you’ll see it’s actually a piece of art, showing a bunch of color shapes. If you look closer, on the other hand, you’ll see that the picture is made up of thousands of text characters. If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you’re probably well aware of the widely lauded, yet almost lost art of ASCII art, or making art out of text, colored or otherwise. Long relegated to artists, hacking or piracy groups’ release texts, and tongue-in-cheek websites like GameFAQs.
ASCII art has seen a small surge in popularity in recent years, but these days, humans don’t make it quite as often as algorithms do; algorithms like the one behind Facebook and Instagram. Any photo that is available publicly and not a private share among friends can be viewed as either black and white or colored ASCII art with a simple tweak to the picture’s URL in your browser.
There are two ways to have a gander at any public picture on Instagram and Facebook as ASCII art. To look at the picture as colored ASCII art using colored text, open up the picture and look in your address bar. You need the URL to contain in “.jpg” The way to do this on Facebook is to pull up the photo, then right-click it and click “Open in new window” in Chrome. In the mobile version, you can click “View full size”. Find the “.jpg” in the URL, then add “.html” to it. You’ll earn yourself the picture as colored ASCII art. This will be actual text, not a picture file, and can be copied and selected as such. In order to view the content in black and white, simply replace the “.html” with “.txt”. This can also be done on Instagram. On the desktop version, pull up the picture from the poster’s profile, right click and then click on “View page source”. This will present you with the verbose breakdown of the page. From there, search using CTRL+F for “jpg”. Look nearby for the caption and tags to be sure you have the right picture, then copy the URL and append accordingly. A similar method can be used in the mobile browser, but there does not seem to be a way to grab a picture’s URL from within either app, Facebook or Instagram.