Making the link rounds among designers in Silicon Valley this holiday season is Facebook fan page Glitchr, which tries to mess up Facebook code on purpose.
While I had previously postulated that the page might be run by the venerable former Facebooker Evan Priestley, instead it is run by some Greek dude, Laimonas Zakas. Click on any of the links in Glitchr’s posts and they will do anything from bring up random Unicode characters to load a Facebook navigation bar multiple times. Go on, don’t be afraid.
So how does he do it? Well, Zakas essentially “paints” with Unicode, combining its non-character entities to break layout engines — creating what might just be society’s most obscure and recent art form.
“These symbols, intruding up and down, are made by combining lots of diacritical marks,” says Zakas, “You can see the variety of them there http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diacritic. Yes, It’s a kind of art. There’s quite a lot of artists who use the Internet or specific social networks as their canvas.”
Zakas brings up the Zalgo meme as an example of another form of Internet art to incorporate Unicode.
Of course Zakas’ efforts have met with both friends and foes at Facebook itself, where many people are fans and some not. Glitchr’s fan page was disabled in December, because of problems with the Unicode characters in its name and eventually re-instated after Zakas contacted the page’s internal fans.
“I have counted more than ten Facebook employees from FB HQ, not to mention those from international departments [as fans],” he tells me, “… They probably like Glitchr to detect bugs. Don’t know how much truth is there, but by now, the following bugs, that I have used in my posts, were fixed: Embedding animated pictures in notes, sharing animated pictures in thumbnails, unlimited extension of text in the post to the right side and some others.”
You can also like Glitchr because it looks cool, and because you don’t quite understand how Zakas is doing it. I still kind of don’t.