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Revision as of 04:27, 19 December 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1 xkcd comics, and only 38 (2%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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Incognito Mode
They're really the worst tech support team. And their solutions are always the same. "This OS X update broke something." "LET'S INFILTRATE APPLE BY MORPHING APPLES!"
Title text: They're really the worst tech support team. And their solutions are always the same. "This OS X update broke something." "LET'S INFILTRATE APPLE BY MORPHING APPLES!"


A woman (maybe a different version of Blondie, or Rachel from Animorphs) warns Cueball about not browsing for more than two hours in incognito mode as he might get stuck there forever.

Incognito mode/private mode is a feature in a web browser that automatically clears any cookies and web history when the browser window is closed. One could become metaphorically "trapped" in this mode if they don't want to lose this data (for example if they've found a useful page which they want to refer back to, or if they're on a website like YouTube which uses cookies to provide recommended videos and they're finding the recommendations interesting), meaning that they can never close the browser again. Presumably this is more likely to happen after a longer browsing session. The only option to keep browsing data when the incognito/private session is closed is to bookmark or write down the URLs of interesting pages; there is no way to keep the cookies, so things such as recommended YouTube videos from within the incognito browsing session will inevitably be lost when it is closed.

Animorphs is a book series by K. A. Applegate featuring several teenagers who have a special power: they can morph into various animals whose DNA they have absorbed through alien technology. However, if they stay morphed for over two hours, they will get stuck in that form until they die (this is presumably where the "two hours" in the comic comes from).

In this comic Randall pokes fun at this by relating it to surfing in incognito mode/privacy mode in a browser. As explained above, staying for too long in incognito mode may cause the user to become "stuck" in this mode until something causes the browser to close, such as the browser/computer crashing or a power failure. This is analogous to the Animorphs who become stuck in animal form if they spend too long in that form.

An alternative interpretation revolves around the use of incognito/private browsing modes when the user is paranoid. They may use this mode if, for example, they don't want the risk of anyone else discovering what they've been doing online, and they find it safer to simply use incognito mode rather than manually deleting the relevant cookies and browsing history afterwards. If they use this mode a lot, the sense of paranoia that initially led them to use incognito mode can reinforce itself, and over time they may become uncomfortable browsing outside of incognito mode. This is another way in which one may become "trapped" in incognito mode after extended use.

Relation to Animorphs

The caption explains that tech tips from Animorphs are the worst, i.e. the woman is an Animorph, and this was not good advice.

The title text continues the idea that an Animorph tech support team would be the worst possible explaining that their solutions are always the same. And then it gives an example which references a common occurrence in the Animorphs book series wherein the protagonists uses their ability to morph into animals to infiltrate enemy strongholds. In the example it is an update for Apple's OS X (a popular commercial operating system), that broke something. The solution is to infiltrate Apple by morphing apples. Morphing into fruits is nonsensical within the rules for morphing, put forth in the books, since the children can only turn into animals and not into fruits like apples. It would be also very ineffective, since fruits can't move on their own. Plus, Apple Inc. has little to do with actual apples, so this is not a good form to infiltrate their headquarters (morphing into bugs or even Apple's employees would be more effective, and is allowed by books' rules). Randall is not the first to propose morphing into vegetables as an Animorph's parody.

Animorphs has been referenced before, first only in the title texts of 1187: Aspect Ratio and 1360: Old Files, and then later in the main comic in 1380: Manual for Civilization, with the books being the actual manual...


[A woman with long blonde hair (maybe a version of Blondie) holds both arms up as she addresses Cueball who is sitting in an office chair working on his laptop.]
Woman: ...But remember—if you browse in incognito mode for more than two hours, you'll be trapped there forever!
[Caption below the panel:]
Animorphs tech tips

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