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Revision as of 00:11, 5 January 2014

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1507 xkcd comics, and only 15 (1%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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NOTE: The above is the first panel of an interactive comic.
To actually experience the interactive content you need to go to this comic on xkcd (click on the date above the comic, which, as always, takes you to the xkcd comic).
A page with pictures representing the other three main types of pages can be seen here: Pictures of other pages.
Similarly here is a page with some of the images of the comic created by users: Pictures posted by users.


In this interactive April Fools' Day comic Cueball, presumably representing Randall, admits to the readers he built a flimsy cloud services company using spare computers and parts. Included in the cloud hardware are (from left to right) a Macintosh Classic, several old laptops, an Alienware tower, a Nintendo VirtualBoy, some sort of radio transmitter, and an Atari Pong Console.

He named the company after xkcd, by just inserting lou between the last two letters XKClouD, although here it should be pronounced XK-cloud.

After providing his services to various (very big) companies (Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr), that are very concerned with securing the users data, his setup failed (some portions may even have caught fire? He is not sure). This has caused him to lose the data he was required to preserve as part of his service. He thus requests the readers help to make up and re-imagine the lost data by pressing the large red button at the bottom of the comic. Preferably before Facebook & Co notice we lost it.

Pressing the button links to one of two interactive survey pages (see picture here).
The first asks the reader to indicate which of several line-drawings best matches a given caption, or the reader can create their own drawing in a simple web-based "paint"-style app.
The other asks the reader to indicate which of several captions best matches a given drawing, or the reader can create their own caption.
In either case we are given the reason for the data loss. And there are many different reasons (all by account of Randall), a list (with some explanations) can be found here.

The content of the "surveys" appear to come from reader submissions, and are different upon every click. This is thus both an interactive and a dynamic comic with only the first picture shown on top of this page. By inviting the xkcd readers to add content that will be displayed in the comic later, the result of all the interactions leads to the generation of crowd-sourced content.

Below the "survey", the reader is presented with a listing similar to a Facebook news feed, listing six posts (three posts before 18:00 ET on April 1st) of the line-drawings apparently tagged with the captions as paired up by the survey results. The posts are made by apparently fictional randomly-named readers (see examples of names here and for description of pictures here). These posts are accompanied by a button similar to Facebook's "Like button" but here the button is labeled with different words which are all synonyms for "want". So not "to like" but "to want" is the new thing in this version of Facebook.

After completing the survey, a new page appears with a red button asking at the top again saying Help us recover more data. Below are seven posts (this was 4 posts before 18:00 ET on April 1st), six (three) new posts below the one you just helped complete. The only difference if you click the red button here (rather than when you start for the first time at the front page) is that there will now be four posts below the one you need to fix. These four posts are the same as those you had on the previous page, including your own at the top.

Next to each post, on this page after the survey, there is a text Link that when pushed created a "permalink". That is it generates a unique URL that will show the post, that was chosen via the permalink Link button, at the top of this page. So the reader can save one post at a time. The one you chooses will be moved to the top. When you apply the permalink later it will not show all the posts from when you created the permalink. Only the one you saved by clicking the Link button next to it, the other post will again just be random. As an example of a permalink this is one where Mark Zuckerberg himself has made a post saying: We told Iran that atomic energy is unsafe.

The permalink option did not appear in the comic until very late in the afternoon on April 1st. Before this there were also only 3 or 4 posts at a time. In the permalink listed above there are 7 posts! At the same time that the permalink appeared, there was also suddenly a link beneath the list of problems under Cueball at his desk (that is on all other pages than the front page.) The link asks you Don't contact us. However, if you do try to contact them anyway a new browser window opens where you get send to an xkcd chartroom at Several xkcd users began posting there at around 18.00 Eastern time (where Randall lives). Maybe he timed these extra features for when people came back from work all over the US. Also at that time the xkcd page did not work properly. The reason he increses the number of posts could simply be because there now is so large a number of possible posts that it does not matter.

It is possible to go back to the front page at any time by clicking the picture of Cueball behind his desk. He is always present to the left on all pages after the front page. But if you go back to the front page like this, then when you again click on the "original" red button it will always take you back to the same page you came from (with the same post and the same post to fix.) You can thus only get to a new survey page by finishing the current task.

It was not immediately clear if the reader-created drawings or captions are, in fact, being cycled into the surveys and feeds, or if the displayed items were all created by Randall and the reader-created content is simply discarded. It seems likely though, with the huge amount of different comments and drawings. And especially the drawings looks like they are created in the simple paint app. (i.e. not by Randall). But since there are now so many inputs, it is very unlikely you will by chance see your own drawing again. Maybe it will even be kept away from a computer through its IP address.

An earlier comic that was related to problems with cloud computing 908: The Cloud.

This comic resembles last years Aprils Fool's comic 1350: Lorenz where user input also generated a very complex comic where the concept of "permalink" was used again.


[This transcript only transcribes what can be seen in the first picture shown at the top of the explanation here. For more see link below]
[One large frame with a five part comic and a large red button at the bottom.]
[Cueball sitting behind a desk.]
Cueball: We've made a huge mistake.
[Cueball points at a bunch of computers]
Cueball: I figured starting a cloud services company would be easy.
Cueball: After all, I've got tons of computers!
[A zoomed view on Cueballs head.]
Cueball: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr— they all struggle to protect privacy and user data...
Cueball: And we offered a solution.
Cueball: I forget what it was, though.
[Cueball is standing with his arms up.]
Cueball: Anyway, long story short, we screwed up immediately and lost tons of their data.
Cueball: Also a bunch of stuff is literally on fire?
[Cueball standing behind a desk.]
Cueball: We can fix this.
Cueball: But we need your help.
[Below the above is a large red rectangular clickable button, that will take the reader on to the interactive part of the comic. On the button it says in large white letters:]
To help us recover user data
before Facebook & Co notice we lost it.
[The standard text for the next possible pages can be seen on the link to the continued transcript. Also here will be a list (which may not be possible to make complete) with possible text for the lost data.]


  • Since being originally posted the words "Click here" have been added in large text to the top of the red button followed by the word "to" being added to the beginning of the existing text.
    • The original comic can be seen on the link where the text was just two lines:
    • Help us recover user data before Facebook & Co notice we lost it.
    • This was obviously not an error by Randall. He probably found that too few visitors to his page understood that they should press the button to continue.
  • The "permalink" option did not appear on the page before late in the afternoon on April 1st.
    • Maybe it was supposed to be working with the "Like" (or "Want") buttons, since they behave like there is an active link when you hover over them. But they do nothing.
    • The permalink solution is now a text with Link written on it right above the "want" buttons.
  • It's the first comic without a title text.
    • This is most likely because it is an interactive comic. Since it is not an image it is not possible to have one title text for the entire comic. Thus Randall decided to not have any.
    • Maybe he knew this would give trouble, here on April 1st, for some of his adherent followers - like us.
    • Also note that this may be the first comic, where you are able to cut and paste some of the text from the comic.
      • This is not possible on the front page, but on the other pages all text that are not part of an image can be selected and copied (into a transcript for instance.)
  • From time to time, instead of the interactive page there is a page with three dots only.
    • This might be due to access problems while xkcd fans all over the world try to submit graphics and text.
  • Source code of elements in the drawing interactive contain the attribute "data-reactid", indicating it is written using the React JavaScript library, developed to use with Facebook & Instagram.
  • The mobile version is the comic is not interactive, and does not have the words "Click Here To"
  • The fictional reader/user name "Lauren Ibsen Dolores Amit" is a modified version of "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet", the first words of a fake-Latin text often used as a substitute for real text where the text content is irrelevant, such as in a page used to display a typeface.
  • One of the reported reasons for data loss is "Please insert Riven CD 4." Riven was an adventure game that was the sequel to Myst, released in 1997. Due to its large amount of image and video content it was on 5 compact discs, and when you traverse from one section of the game to another, it usually prompted you to insert a different CD to load that section's content.

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