Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

xkcd is a webcomic drawn by Randall Munroe and hosted at xkcd.com. It focuses on science, mathematics, technology, and general geekiness, told with a light, quirky sense of humor, and at times profound philosophizing. Its art style is minimalist, told through simple stick figures. New comics are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and are accompanied by a title text, serving as Randall's commentary.


xkcd comics are usually plain, predominantly black-and-white line drawings, but sometimes they make use of hues beyond the usual monochrome colors, even if it is just red-penned annotations. Although quite complex objects can be drawn, or conventionally cartoon-like representations of things and animals, a majority of the people featured are stick figures who have become a cast of recurring characters. The xkcd art style has undergone many changes over time. Initially, the comics were made by scanning hand-drawn sketches. However, they eventually transitioned to being entirely digitally inked and lettered. Another notable change was in the style of text used. While early comics featured sentence-case text, Randall began writing in all-caps non-cursive handwriting with 90: Jacket. It took several comics for this to become the standard practice. In the early days of xkcd, Randall used checkered paper with a grid for most of his initial drawings. This grid became a distinctive part of the style of the early xkcd comics, as it was used for most of his LiveJournal comics, and the last comic by date to use it was 39: Bowl. The faint remains of gridlines in some comics suggest that Randall may have erased gridlines in these comics. In 2012, Randall revived the blue grid as a background image for what if?.

Occasionally, Randall releases comics that go beyond the norm. These unique comics might involve user interactivity, utilize specific HTTP behaviors, or explore innovative graphic techniques, setting them apart from the ordinary static comics. He will use animated GIFs, rather than standard formats, for some of the simpler dynamic comic images and will engage with complex page and server-side scripting to present the reader with the more immersive or interactive content.

Meaning of "xkcd"

It's not actually an acronym. It's just a word with no phonetic pronunciation — a treasured and carefully-guarded point in the space of four-character strings.
Actually, I've been using [xkcd] as just a unique point in the space of four-character strings to point to me. I've been using it as my name on every service box since at least the nineties, because I got tired of changing my name every time my interest changed. I started out when I was 10 years old when AOL first popped up and I was on there as, I think I had, first, "Skywalker4", then "Animorph7", and then [...] other names [...] like "Redtailedhawk6" or something. Eventually, I was like, I'm tired of names that point to other things, that identify me with those things. I want to get a string that will just point uniquely to me that's not my name, because that's kind of boring. And so, I [decided] to generate random strings and find one that had a certain set of qualities, which included:
  • none of the letters could be mistaken for other letters [or] numbers, so no "L", because "L", lower-cased, can look like "i" or "1";
  • it couldn't have any obvious acronym decoding [...] or be an existing acronym;
  • it couldn't be pronounceable because then it would sound like [...] a word, and people would think of other words like it.
So, I searched though a bunch of names that weren't taken, until I found one that wasn't taken on all the services I wanted.

According to the xkcd FAQ and Randall Munroe himself, the name "xkcd" doesn't stand for anything. In a Google speech, he said that it originated as a previously unused random four-letter string which he used as his username on various internet services. See also 207: What xkcd Means.

There are other theories about what xkcd stands for:

  • Short Minds noted that if each letter of the alphabet is mapped to 1 through 26, the sum of the values for "x", "k", "c", and "d" is equal to 42, which is the answer given to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything by the supercomputer in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. However, according to Randall himself, this is a coincidence.
  • A now-deleted Reddit account noted that typing "xkcd" on a Persian QWERTY keyboard returns "طنزی", which means satirical, sarcastic, and comic.
  • "X", "k", "c", and "d" are consecutive letters when typed on a left-handed DVORAK keyboard.


I was going through old math/sketching graph paper notebooks and didn't want to lose some of the work in them, so I started scanning pages. I took the more comic-y ones and put them up on a server I was testing out, and got a bunch of readers when BoingBoing linked to me. I started drawing more seriously, gained a lot more readers, started selling t-shirts on the site, and am currently shipping t-shirts and drawing this comic full-time. It's immensely fun and I really appreciate y'all's support.

xkcd originated from a collection of hand-drawn sketches by Randall Munroe. Initially, these sketches were shared on his LiveJournal account called "xkcd_drawings", where the very first xkcd comic, 7: Girl sleeping (Sketch -- 11th grade Spanish class), was posted. This marked the beginning of xkcd on September 30, 2005, with a series of 13 sketches uploaded between 8:34 pm and 8:46 pm. Shortly after, on October 2, 2005, Randall established a regular posting schedule for his comics, announcing that they would be released on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This schedule has been predominantly followed, except for a break between December 5, 2005, and January 4, 2006, when no comics were published.

Originally, xkcd comics were shared exclusively on LiveJournal and were accompanied by a comment from Randall (similar to what would later become the title text). However, on January 30, 2006, Randall announced that he would also begin publishing them on the website xkcd.com. To facilitate this, he collaborated with someone named Derek to set up an RSS feed and an automated posting method on an account called "xkcd_rss". Consequently, the original LiveJournal account, "xkcd_drawings", became redundant and was shut down.

Interestingly, when the comics from LiveJournal were reposted on xkcd.com, they were all dated January 1, 2006, regardless of their original posting date. Moreover, their numbering deviated from the initial LiveJournal order. It's worth noting that according to the numbering on xkcd.com, the first comic is 1: Barrel - Part 1, and not 7: Girl sleeping (Sketch -- 11th grade Spanish class). Both comics were posted on the first day of xkcd on LiveJournal. Following the comic 45: Schrodinger, the subsequent 11 comics were released on both xkcd.com and LiveJournal. However, the comic 54: Science disrupted the sequential order, causing discrepancies from 51: Malaria up to 54: Science. The original order of these comics on LiveJournal can be found here. The final comic shared on LiveJournal was 55: Useless, succeeded by 56: The Cure, which became the first comic to be exclusively posted on xkcd.com.

Other Wikis

See also