Hidden Messages in HTML Source Code

HTML is the language of the web. It is a markup language that applies styling and formatting, and content to generate the web pages on your screen.

Every web browser allows the user to view the Source Code of any web page, usually in a right-click context menu. As a person who is curious about the technologies that other sites are using, I often find myself looking at the source code of different websites.

Over the years, I have found a few sites which have hidden little “Easter eggs” within their code for users to discover.

PayPal.com
The source code for PayPal.com used to show this neat little word art drawing of the name PayPal made of dollar signs. They also had a link to their jobs page and “Now hiring” in the code, which I thought was brilliant! Sadly, it is no longer in their code.

Flickr.com
The photo-sharing website founded in 2004 has a large ASCII logo and a link to their jobs page hidden in their source code. Neat!!

Slack.com
The collaboration tool Slack also has a large logo and jobs page hidden in the top of their website’s source code. Coincidentally, the co-founder of Slack, Stewart Butterworth, was also a founder of Flickr. Perhaps he knows a thing or two about creative marketing!

Mashable.com
Tech news publisher Mashable.com used to have their logo drawn as a Nyan cat, a popular meme with a cartoon cat who had a Pop-Tart for a body. It was present in 2016, but is no longer there today.

SpaceX.com
Rocket manufacturer SpaceX.com has a simple date, version number, and the words “Space Exploration Technologies Corp.” in their source code.

I was disappointed that nerdy sites like NASA.gov, Tesla.com, Slashdot.org, Reddit.com, WordPress, Automattic, Raspberry Pi, Spotify, GitHub, StackOverflow and others did not have any hidden messages in their webpage source code.

I looked at dozens of sites, including brands that are known to be quirky, mission-driven, or direct-to-consumer and did not find anything on MailChimp, Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s, Patagonia, Hydro Flask, or others.

Even the FBI and National Security Agency (NSA), which specialize in cryptography and hidden messages, has nothing to offer on their site!

Of course, I understand that these are enterprise level applications. In the modern web landscape, speed is king. Fast load times are the absolute top priority. Every byte saved with compressed HTML and CDNs translates to faster speed, better user experience, and even improved Google rankings. Major sites like AirBNB, Uber, Pinterest, TikTok and others are so heavily optimized that it’s not even possible to skim through their source code.

I am sad that these fun little “Easter eggs” have mostly disappeared on the web. Nobody can spare a few bytes for a neat little saying or word art for the few who bother to look.

Have you come across any websites with fun items hidden in their source code, such as a message or a discount code? Post a comment to share your finds!

About the author

Trevor Freeman

Trevor Freeman is a writer, photographer, and maker who loves learning new things. His favorite food is pizza. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management from Grand Canyon University. He lives and works in Phoenix.

You can follow Trevor on Twitter @TrevorFreemanAZ, on Instagram at @arizona.dreamin, and on YouTube: TheRealTrevorland.

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