Typically when we talk about things that are “hidden” in websites, we’re referring to something malicious — data-hoovering cookies, for example, or massive amounts of malware. But not every website dev is trying to con visitors out of their personal info or utterly wreck their devices; some of them just want to say “hi.” And sometimes, that “hi” is written in code.
Companies like Yahoo and eBay have spent years sneaking job ads into the HTML that makes up their websites in the hopes that curious coders would find them. Other sites might have unicorns, guns, or obscure, cryptic messages. Even if you’re not particularly web-savvy, it’s not hard to crack open your favourite site’s source code and comb through it for a bit. If you’re also a diehard Chrome user, then all you need to do is type “view-source:” before a website’s URL. You can also access these codes in any browser by right-clicking on a webpage and hitting “view source.”
To give you some ideas of where to start looking, we’ve rounded up ten of our favourites from across the internet.
The Oatmeal’s Motherfucking Pterodactyl
The first thing you see in the source code behind the website for The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman’s long-running webcomic, is ASCII art of a massive pterodactyl — so massive, in fact, we couldn’t even fit the entire dang thing into one screenshot. It helpfully lets you know that it’s not only “a motherfucking pterodactyl,” but that it’s also here to “ptero” (“tear”) you a new arsehole. Not sure how he’s planning on accomplishing this, considering how he’s literally a drawing of a very, very extinct flying reptile, but he’s welcome to try.
Dinosaur Comics’ Confused T-Rex
Next up is another ASCII dino, this time (fittingly enough) hidden under the Dinosaur Comics site which is — as you’d probably expect from the name — a webcomic about dinosaurs. Instead of threatening to murder the person that finds him, this guy just wants to know what the words in the website code actually mean (and also to step on a tiny house). 10/10 dino, would hang out with him.
Of course, the website for DogeChain — a site that lets people monitor any recent Dogecoin transactions in real-time — would feature a lil doge giving you some classic doge realness. Y u viewing this, indeed.
Amazon’s Mystery Duck
If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the wall of code building up Amazon’s site, you’ll find… a duck. But not just any duck: a duck that meows. The Duck’s been a part of Amazon’s site for years — since about 2016, from what internet sleuths have been able to dig up. And while rumours about what it might mean have floated around programming circles since the start, nobody seems to know where Duck came from, why Duck exists, and why Duck doesn’t make regular Duck sounds.
Slack’s Tiny Rhyme
Slack is one of the tech companies that snuck a bit of job recruitment into their website code — and they decided to rhyme it in a way that’s actually a bit… cute? Or at least as cute as a job recruitment notice can be.
Biden’s Build Back Better
At the top of the code for the Whitehouse’s website, the Biden administration also leaves a job recruitment notice. “If you’re reading this, we need your help building back better,” it reads, with a link leading to the site for the United States Digital Service (USDS) — a tech startup that was established by the White House during the Obama era that’s meant to make the government more tech-friendly.
The USDS’s Crab
If you actually do follow the White House’s link to the USDS site and check out the source code there, you’re greeted by this friendly(?) looking crab that seems to be holding two lightsabers. Apparently, according to the code, her name is Mollie, and she’s the mascot for the org.
Star Wars Classic
Speaking of lightsabers — the source code for the Star Wars site is helmed by a spin on one of the series’ iconic quotes: “May the Source be with you.” Adorable.
Disney’s Curiosity Quote
While we’re staying on the topic of Disney properties, the source code behind the official company site features this nod to the folks curious enough to poke around its code, courtesy of Walt Disney himself:
“We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious … and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
It’s Domino’s. What did you expect?
This article has been retimed since its original publication.