Disappearing Sunday Update

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Disappearing Sunday Update
This comic won't exist in the archives. NOTHING IS REAL.
Title text: This comic won't exist in the archives. NOTHING IS REAL.


The comic is a special Disappearing comic that was placed between the Friday comic 2184: Unpopular Opinions but before the normal Monday comic update, which became 2185: Cumulonimbus.

It was, of course, released on a Sunday (August 4th), becoming only the fifth comic to be released on a Sunday.

It is the first comic that was fully deleted from the xkcd archives, as it was replaced by the normal Monday update, leaving no trails on xkcd, but lots of trails in many other sites, like this one and in the Internet Archive of the Wayback Machine. Also the image (and its 2x version) was still on the xkcd image server after it had disappeared.

The entire comic is an advertisement for Randall's upcoming book "How To".

The entire comic was a link directly to https://xkcd.com/how-to/. This link was also mentioned in the text of the comic. But as Randall has never learned how to make a different part of an image into a different link, his Blag, the other link mentioned in the text, was not linked from the comic. The link to this is https://blog.xkcd.com/. When this comic was released the top blog post was the one about the How To book.

The first part of the comic, the advertisement, included a drawing of the cover, two sets of pages, showing the open book, and a sampling of the table of contents of the book. The full table of contest can be found in the Blag post mentioned above.

The second part of the comic, the joke, shows Randall (as Cueball) at the bottom where he in advance apologized for the various bots, that automatically catalog xkcd comics, which might break because of this special comic. See more under Unusual Means.

This Explain xkcd website is one example of such a page, where the bot that creates new pages, was assigning the comic a number of 2185 despite the comic not having a designated number at the time it was released.

The comic even broke the xkcd site itself as the previously released Friday comic, 2184: Unpopular Opinions, then had a next button that linked to comic 2185, which did not exist at time of release! So using that button from comic 2184 displayed a 404 error. Later this was fixed by giving this comic the number 2185, although only temporarily, see the Trivia section. At this time it was thus also included in the archive, see below regarding the title text.

In the title text it is stated that: This comic won't exist in the archives. NOTHING IS REAL.. However, as shown in the Trivia section, Randall had so many problems with his plans for this comic, that he ended up making it a normal numbered comic and thus also put it into the archives, ensuring that the title texts statement was not real. But when the normal Monday comic was released it was removed from the xkcd site, and the archive. But then so was this title text, so for most of the time it was available, it was not true!

One of the bot methods mentioned may be in reference to the then-recent comic 2180: Spreadsheets, where Cueball debates making a real program to do a task, or to use a Google spreadsheet instead.

Two weeks later he released a permanent comic with a reference to one of the chapters in his book with 2190: Serena Versus the Drones.

Unusual Means[edit]

Randall notes that if you read xkcd through unusual means... ... I hope this ephemeral ghost comic doesn't break them too badly.

Between the dots he suggested different methods of reading xkcd, other than on the xkcd home page. These methods get progressively sillier (many still need explanations). Here is a list:

The Android app easyxkcd was broken by this comic when used in offline mode, as reported here.
An iOS app called xkcd: Open-Source is broken by this comic, permanently assigning the comic number 2185 to this comic, and not replacing it with the *actual* 2185 comic. Because of that, this comic can be viewed in the app, but the real 2185 isn’t viewable.
Custom screen-scraping systems
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_scraping#Screen_scraping
Google Reader clones
Google Reader was an RSS/Atom aggregator that Google discontinued in 2013. Enthusiasts created a full-featured work-alike replacement, called The Old Reader.
Twitter bots
Scripts that automatically post content to a designated Twitter account.
BASH scripts
A popular Unix shell; one might, say, write a script in it to run on one's personal Unix machine, checking for a new xkcd comic and displaying it somewhere.
Gopher portals
Gopher was a method of surfing the Internet that predated the Web (by about five months) and was vastly more popular (for about three years).
Lynx-based ASCII art browsers
Lynx is a text-based Web browser. It can launch external programs to view images, but Randall is suggesting that instead a Lynx variant might convert images to ASCII art, which renders images using the 94 visible ASCII keyboard characters.
Third-party Second Life feeds
Second Life is a virtual world that opened in 2002 and has averaged about 40,000 simultaneous users for the past five years.
RFC 2549
An RFC is a proposal for how to run the Internet. RFC 2549 is about transmitting data using carrier pigeons (this was one of the earliest April Fools' Day RFCs).
Massive Google docs sheets
See #2180.

Another unusual method is UNIXkcd, which was reported here to have broken, but was later working.


~Special Disappearing Sunday comic~
[Below the header to the right are the following text:]
I'm posting this ephemeral Sunday update to let you know that I wrote a book! It's a guide to solving everyday problems in terrible ways using science.
It comes out next month, and it's available for preorder now.
[Below this text is an arrow to an image of the book to the left. The arrow comes from this text:]
The cover looks like this
[The book is shown to the left as a black rectangle with large blue text and smaller white text. On the book cover, in white drawings, are seen Ponytail with a ladder and either Black or White Hat (hard to say on black background). Both are looking up on Cueball who is floating in the air with a quadcopter beneath either leg, trying to plug in an electric light bulb in a naked lamp hanging down near him. It seems he has already removed the broken light bulb, as he has one in both hands. And now he tries to put in the new one. He could have let Ponytail use the ladder...]
[The header in blue above it all:] How To.
[Sub header in white to the left of Cueball:] Absurd Scientific Answers to Common Real-world Problems
[Author name in blue below the drawing:] Randall Munroe
[Sub header to this below in white:] Creator of xkcd
[Sub header to this below in white:] Author of what if? and Thing Explainer
[Below the text with the arrow to the book is the following text with an arrow pointing down to an image of two pages in the open book, shown to the right:]
And the inside looks like this.
[To the left of the open book are the following text:]
Chapters include:
How to charge your phone
How to throw a pool party
How to move
How to build a lava moat
How to ski
[The open book to the right has almost only unreadable text. The left page shows a drawing of car in front of a trailer which is loaded with about 15 of boxes in four layers. Two stick figures are standing between the car and the trailer, talking with each other. The trailer is not attached to the car. There are some lines of text beneath the drawing and then what appears to be a chapter heading. It probably says something as "How to move", as this is mentioned as a chapter in the text to the left of these pages, but there one of two more unreadable words at the end of that heading. Beneath that the rest of the page is text and at the bottom there seems to be a footnote. The right page shows a house that seems to be floating a couple of meters above the ground, two arrows pointing up to the bottom of the house on either side. A stick figure stands to the left of the house which float at the figures head height. There is text beneath this drawing. Beneath that there is another drawing of a house towed on a truck, which speeds up a steep hill and jumps over a cliff to get to the other side. Seems like it will work. The speed of the truck seems to be very high as indicated by two curly lines indicating exhaust from the truck. It becomes three small clouds further behind the moving house. There is a footnote beneath the drawing. The driver of the truck yells as the truck jumps. This can actually be read:]
Driver: Woooooo
[Beneath the above text and pages are another image of the open book with two other pages. This time to the left. This time there is text to the right.]
[These book pages are also mainly unreadable. At the top of the left page is a drawing of what could be a lake. Two people seems to be standing out in the water, only heads showing above the water. A sign is standing on the brink, is may say "Sorry"? Behind the lake is some mountains in the background. Beneath the drawing is some text of, then a smaller diagram like drawing which may show some black clouds above and below a line in the middle of this drawing. One of the clouds are beneath a curly bracket which are beneath the line. The curly bracket lies down and has the same length as the cloud. Beneath this drawing is more text and then a third drawing at the bottom. Here is shown a cross section of the lake. At the left side of the lake the water is shallow and a stick figure is standing in the water on the bottom, head above water with its arms held up in the air. It is directing its attention to the four stick figure standing on the brink to the left looking at the figure in the water. To the right the lake becomes more than three times as deep. Clouds are above the lake, one large just right of the stick figure and one smaller further right. At the right edge the lakes edge is vertical. On the brink is what may be a diving board protruding over the lake. Something is lying on top of the board. And above is what seems to be another cloud. To the right of the lake is a pile of earth with what appears to be a large black Nuclear bomb (with the nuclear icon on it) stuck with its tip in the pile. On the right page is a line coming down from the top, which then turns to the right ending in an arrow. There is a line of text above the horizontal part of the line. The arrow points to a large heading in two rows. (See below). Beneath the heading are a few lines of text. Then a drawing of a torn map (like an old treasure map whit a X at the end of a trail marked with dots. Mountains indicated with small "^" and coast line is visible. There seems to be text beneath the X. There are text beneath the drawing. Beneath that are a header with a line beneath it, and then text beneath the line.]
How to Dig a Hole
[To the right of these pages are the following text:]
You can learn more and preorder it at xkcd.com/how-to
And read an excerpt at blog.xkcd.com
[Beneath all this Randall (drawn as Cueball) is telling about the problem this disappearing comic may cause:]
Randall: If you read xkcd through unusual means, including apps, custom screen-scraping systems, Google reader clones, Twitter bots, bash scripts, gopher portals, lynx-based ASCII art browsers, third-party Second Life feeds, RFC 2549, or massive google docs sheets full of =IMPORTHTML() and =IMAGE() formulas, I hope this ephemeral ghost comic doesn't break them too badly.
Randall: It will disappear with the normal Monday update.
Randall: (At least, I think it will. I've never tried this before. So I'm honestly not sure what the server will do.)


  • This August 4th 2019 Sunday comic was first posted on the front page without any number relating to it. Thus breaking the next comic button on xkcd.
    • Since it was scheduled to be deleted on Monday August 5th 2019, when the next comic arrives on xkcd, it was not supposed to have a number or be in the archive. But seems like this caused too many problems for the xkcd site it self (not just for all the other sites Randall jokes about).
    • So later it was given the next number in the comic list (2185) and was also included in the archive for the duration of its stay on the xkcd front page.
    • It was later removed from the archive and 2185 was assigned to the Monday comic 2185: Cumulonimbus.
  • Here are some pictures documenting that the comic at some point between release and the next comics release worked like a normal comic with number 2185 as shown in the web address at the top.
  • Disappearing Sunday Update with number 2185.png
  • It was also part of the archive with the release date showing correctly when hovering over the title:
  • Archive with Disappearing Sunday Update and date.png

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This comic isn't a numbered comic. The ephemeral ghost comic has broken explainxkcd! 22:23, 4 August 2019 (UTC)

Fair point. Probably the page should be renamed to 2184.5 or something. 08:52, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

Well, it broke the xkcd client I use. (Easy xkcd, Android) Just crashes on start. I hope it will fix itself when the normal one comes out. I also hope that this comic will remain here when it is taken down. Fghsgh (talk) 22:43, 4 August 2019 (UTC) fghsgh

Previous then Next on xkcd.com 404's... Trivia! 22:59, 4 August 2019 (UTC)

It's not rendering for me on the uni.xkcd.com portal, could anyone else verify? I'm excited in seeing what else this comic will break. Kirdneh (talk) 23:11, 4 August 2019 (UTC)

This works for me now. —TobyBartels (talk) 08:59, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

I wonder what will happen tomorrow! Oh the antici- pation! 00:01, 5 August 2019 (UTC) Sam

Others had the same idea I did, this comic has been archived to https://web.archive.org/web/20190805000153/https://xkcd.com/ For posterity(?) 02:52, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

I only noticed this on Monday morning, so was surprised to find that there isn't more detail about the various things the comic mentions possibly breaking. It got me wondering how many people on the site (especially the younger ones) aren't even aware of IP over Avian Carriers, Gopherspace, or lynx. This is one of those comics that could easily be a forest of links to interesting things you might never have thought to look for. -- Angel (talk) 07:47, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

I added a list; you should add more explanation to it. —TobyBartels (talk) 08:59, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

Has the comic been changed since it was posted, to stop breaking things? Because it's appearing as #2185 for me and the link to that number from #2184 works. (Also, I love that--Internet Archive notwithstanding--we're almost certainly going to keep a well-explained copy of this comic alive for posterity. What will we number it, though? Has Randall broken explain xkcd too?) -- Peregrine (talk) 08:52, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

Seems so. It now has 2185 on the xkcd website and it is to be found in the archive at the current moment, before the Monday comic comes out. Probably Randall found out it would give too much trouble not numbering it. Wonder if he really deletes it... It will still be here and in the web-archive forever. But of course if he does delete it and names the next comic 2185 then this comic will have to be moved to a special page like his Radiation sheet etc. I have taken some screen dumps that I will post in a trivia here. To show that it is now currently a normal comic with number 2185. --Kynde (talk) 09:02, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

It's also possible that Randall could use the whatever mechanism was used for http://xkcd.com/404/ for this comic. --Xuth

It's Monday

It's Monday, and the comic is still on the front page of xkcd.com. WhiteDragon (talk) 13:48, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

Nothing strange about this. It is not unusual for Randall to post a comic later in the day. And for this day he may even have reason to do so. Anyway this is a advertisement stunt, and by breaking the different viewers he has gotten more focus on his page than usual. Maybe this comic will just stay until Wednesday and not disappear at all. I would not be surprised. Also removing it will probably make trouble for Randall's own page now... But interesting if it disappears when the next comic arrives. Until it does, he has promised this comic would stay, so it being here on Monday is not against his promise that it should go away... --Kynde (talk) 15:16, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

Monday afternoon (eastern USA time)-I use the RSS link from XKCD, and the "Feed" page of pipedot.org, a convenient way to organize a dozen or so sites I watch. As of this morning, there were still two RSS links to "Disappearing Sunday Update", then the newer RSS link pointed to Cumulonimbus (2185), and eventually the RSS text updated to also say "Cumulonimbus". The original RSS link to "Disappearing Sunday Update" is still there and now points to https://xkcd.com/how-to/ -- a different book advert. 22:57, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

Ascii-art comics

When my computer was still too slow for doing real work in graphics mode (and my monitor didn't like any decent graphics mode my Ruby VGA card could produce) I actually had configured my lynx to show images using aview. For comics that method is too low-res. But when you stand back from your monitor for about 3 meters you get fairly good approximations of most images without having to switch to graphics mode.Gunterkoenigsmann (talk) 15:13, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

Now there's https://xkcd.com/2185/ followed by https://xkcd.com/2185/# . . . when will it end? 15:32, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

2185 is now here http://xkcd.com/2185. It looks like this one really disappeared.
The comic's page may be gone, but its image is still accessible: https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/disappearing_sunday_update.png 20:33, 5 August 2019 (UTC)
This means that the "permanent link" was, in fact, not permanent. 23:31, 5 August 2019 (UTC)

I have added this comic to the Category:Extra comics, and made links to it from the two comics released around its release. Also I have moved the page so this page name does not refer to 2185. I have also updated the explanation to past. since it is no longer an xkcd comic, but only an archived memory. And updated the explanation where references to guessing about what happened after Monday release was not yet corrected to facts. --Kynde (talk) 12:56, 6 August 2019 (UTC)