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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 09:15, 8 February 2016

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 2366 xkcd comics, and only 19 (1%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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Messaging Systems
SMS is just the worst, but I'm having trouble convincing people to adopt my preferred system, TLS IRC with a local server and a patched DOSBox gateway running in my mobile browser.
Title text: SMS is just the worst, but I'm having trouble convincing people to adopt my preferred system, TLS IRC with a local server and a patched DOSBox gateway running in my mobile browser.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by AN UNENCRYPTED SMS. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

Messaging systems suffers from the network effect, as in order to communicate, both parties need to have adopted the same system. Though relatively ancient by modern standards, SMS is supported by most every mobile device (unless you're still on a DynaTAC) that has a phone number attached, which means if you want to send a message to someone, but aren't sure if you have a messaging protocol in common, you can be sure at least they have SMS.

The comic mentions many other communication systems, which offer various advantages in either security (end to end encryption) and or a bunch of general improvements filed under the label "vaguely modern", such as longer character limits and the ability to share media such as images in-service.

Various other comics have referenced the issue of chat services, including 1810: Chat Systems, 1254: Preferred Chat System, and 1782: Team Chat.

Vaguely Modern


Slack is a workplace messaging service which offers the ability for administrators to create channels in order to organize the discussion. It is asynchronous, which means that conversations can occur out of time, hours apart from each other. It also keeps track of every message, and everything in a public channel stays there forever for everyone to see. It is not encrypted, and has been moving towards being less privacy focused for end users over the years as corporate demand for employee surveillance has prompted the company to offer ever more invasive services to administrators. Overall, it is a popular service with some large companies and non-profit organisations, but does not yet have universal adoption.

Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger is Facebook's messaging app for phones, but not everyone has a Facebook account, or uses Facebook regularly.


Google Hangouts is a messaging service which can be accessed through the online Gmail Client, as a separate web page, and a standalone app for the phone. While theoretically that means everybody has access to it, modern usage patterns means that most people do not use the attached web client and don't bother downloading the app. It allows users to upload significantly degraded images, links, and other media along with text with a copy-paste.


Discord is a instant messaging and groups platform, designed for the gaming community.

Various DMs

Vaguely Modern & E2E Encrypted




E2E Encrypted

PGP Email

Various Obscure Projects

Skype I Think

Jabber + TLS

Supported By Everyone


SMS is a text messaging service formally defined in the GSM standard in 1985 and first used in 1992. It limits users to being able to send up to 160 characters, and only text.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.

A Venn Diagram is shown, framed in a box. It has three components:

Vaguely Modern, E2E Encrypted, Supported By Everyone

Solely in the Vaguely Modern category are:

Facebook Messenger, Hangouts, Discord, Various DMs

In both 'Vaguely Modern' and 'E2E Encrypted' categories are:

Signal, iMessage, Whatsapp

Solely in the E2E Encrypted category are:

PGP Email, Various Obscure Projects, Skype I think, Jabber + TLS

Solely in the 'Supported By Everyone' category is:


All other categories are empty.

[Caption below the comic]: Why SMS refuses to die

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