Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Title text: And it doesn't pop up a box every time asking you to use your real name. In fact, there's no way to set your name at all. You just have to keep reminding people who you are.
|| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: explain reference to Deep Web.|
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
An Undocumented feature is a part of a software product
that is not explained in the documentation for the product.
There are many examples of undocumented features in programs
written for old versions of windows, for example:
- When playing Windows Solitaire with the "draw three" option, one can draw single cards by holding Ctrl+Alt+Shift while clicking on the card to draw cards.
- When playing Windows Minesweeper in pre-windows-95 versions, typing "xyzzy" followed by <Enter> and then <Right-shift>, will turn the top left pixel of the windows background black or white to indicate if the mouse is over a mine or not.
- The fist releases of Windows 95 allowed to see the "credits" for Win95 by creating a folder in the desktop and then renaming it several times.
- Word 97 has an embedded pinball game, accesible by a weird sequence of strange actions.
- Excel 97 has also an embedded game of a spaceship floating over a planet, accesible by another weird sequence of actions.
Windows XP and later versions have no undocumented features (none that have got widely known afterwards anyway),
allegedly because Microsoft wanted the U.S. government to use Windows XP and they don't use any software with any undocumented features.
In this comic, Cueball has found a chat room, intended to ask for help, accesible through the help page of some unnamed old windows utility.
The people who found the chat room starts using it for its intended purpose (helping users of the utility by contacting other users),
however as time passes they just become friends and enter the chat only to talk to each other, with no relation with computer problems.
After a while, the utility program gets old so that nobody uses it any more,
however people in the chat still have it installed only to be able to chat to each other.
A Virtual Machine (or VM) is a computer program designed to emulate the hardware of a full computer.
With such a program, one configures parameters such as the amount of RAM memory the virtual machine will have,
the hard disk size, etc.
Then, the program creates an environment with those parameters so that one can start to install an Operating system as if it were a real machine.
Some computer users keep different VMs in their computer with different operating systems, so they can run several operating systems at the same time.
In the comic, users of the old chat room create VMs only to have an old operating system installed, with the old utility program
(which can be assumed to go funny or not run at all in more recent versions of windows)
just to be able to access the chat room.
A chat room like this must be hosted in some outside server, so the narrator of the comic wonders who runs this server.
An obvious thought about this is if and when the server will be shut down, effectively cutting all communication among chat users.
Another obvious thought is why the utility author is still maintaining the chat server, since its original purpose
(communicating users with problems with the utitity program) is no more an issue as everybody has migrated to more modern systems.
The comic suggests that the reason for doing this can be a bored sysadmin,
who is just reading the messages of the chat users and following their lives but never writing anything.
This would turn the chat room as a soap opera for the sysadmin.
Eventually, the comic comments on how nothing is forever, but eventually subverts this by attacking Facebook's video ads that had been announced the day just before the release of the comic.
Over years he and the other members of the chatroom become friends in their secret hideaway. The chatroom seems to serve no purpose other than perhaps being some sysadmin's source of entertainment.
Cueball/the narrator then develops an existential outlook, contemplating the relatively short life of the chatroom server and also the lives of its small group of users.
The fact that it has no video ads or even names for its users is a feature of the simpler times of the Internet.
The title text expands on this by mentioning the popups on YouTube asking for your channel/user name. YouTube would like you to use your real name. On Facebook you're supposed to use your real name anyway. Based on the final frame, the comic appears also to be a negative commentary on the recent addition of autoplay video ads to Facebook.
- [A support window is shown.]
- An old Windows utility has an undocumented feature. If you open "help" and click on the background, you get dropped into a "support" chat room.
- Support Window: Launching support forum...
- [An active conversation between two people is shown.]
- Only a few of us ever found it. But we became friends.
- [Cueball and Ponytail are at computers.]
- We kept launching the program to check in. Eventually some of us were running VMs just to keep accessing it.
- [Another conversation.]
- As the Internet aged, so did we.
- [Three question marks.]
- We don't know who runs the server. We don't know why it's still working so many years later. Maybe we're some sysadmin's soap opera.
- [A group of people are shown in a bubble.]
- It will probably vanish someday, but for now it's our meeting place. Our hideaway.
- [The bubble is now smaller, and some parts of a web are shown.]
- A life's worth of chat,
- [More of the web is shown.]
- Buried in the deep web.
- [A flat landscape is shown with the sun at the horizon.]
- But even if it lasts forever, we won't. When we're gone, who will remember us?
- [Cueball and Hairy are shown standing together in a bubble.]
- Who will remember this strange little world and the friendships we built here?
- [An empty bubble is shown.]
- This place is irrelevant. Ephemeral. One day it will be forgotten.
- [The bubble starts to fade away.]
- And so will we
- [The bubble has almost completely faded away.]
- [The bubble is now completely gone.]
- But at least it doesn't have fucking video ads.
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