KERNEL GUIDE TO THE INTERNET

X is for XKCD

By Ned Donovan

It’s often said that for any topic, there is a relevant XKCD comic for it. From a hobby that began in artist Randall Munroe’s notebooks, the comic series has become a huge online hit. Munroe is one of the few people able to draw their entire living from drawing the strips, and they often cover current affairs or other topics which effect denizens of the Internet and the world at large.

The name XKCD stands for nothing in particular, merely a word that doesn’t have a traditional pronunciation. At the time of writing, 1342 strips have been made, and all of them revolve around similar common themes: simple stick figures approaching difficult political, online, and philosophical topics. Some of the most popular ones are the comics that focus on memes about internet subculture, these are often referenced on reddit, to such an extent that a specific bot exists to tally how often particular XKCD comics are linked to.

Screengrab via Roger Lancefield/Flickr

In a spin off from the regular comic series, Munroe also runs a section of the website focusing on user submitted “What if” questions, these are then answered and illustrated by the artist himself. Well known answers include responding to a query on if Commander Chris Hadfield’s musical cover of Space Oddity was the most expensive video of all time, and another proving that the sun still doesn’t set on British territories.

Very occasionally, Munroe ventures off the website, most recently he made a comment on Reddit due to intense reaction from Reddit users discovering that a link to the men’s rights subreddit was in the sidebar of r/xkcd. Randall, in a rare public opinion given outside of his comic cells, stated that he “would not want the kind of person who would link to /r/mensrights…in charge of any xkcd-related community. Ugh.”

Recently it was announced that the ‘What If’ section of the website would be compiled into a book, bringing one of the most popular parts of the Internet into the real world to be enjoyed by the millions who are offline and immune to Randall Munroe’s art.