1817: Incognito Mode

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Incognito Mode
They're really the worst tech support team. And their solutions are always the same. "This OS X update broke something." "LET'S INFILTRATE APPLE BY MORPHING APPLES!"
Title text: They're really the worst tech support team. And their solutions are always the same. "This OS X update broke something." "LET'S INFILTRATE APPLE BY MORPHING APPLES!"


A woman (maybe a different version of Blondie, or Rachel from Animorphs) warns Cueball about not browsing for more than two hours in incognito mode as he might get stuck there forever.

Incognito mode/private mode is a feature in a web browser that automatically clears any cookies and web history when the browser window is closed, but does not shield you from censorship, malware, or tracking. One could become metaphorically "trapped" in this mode if they don't want to lose this data (for example if they've found a useful page which they want to refer back to, or if they're on a website like YouTube which uses cookies to provide recommended videos and they're finding the recommendations interesting), meaning that they can never close the browser again. Presumably this is more likely to happen after a longer browsing session. The only option to keep browsing data when the incognito/private session is closed is to bookmark or write down the URLs of interesting pages; there is no way to keep the cookies (except by using features of certain browsers to view the cookies, then setting them outside of incognito mode; this is usually too complex for the average user), so things such as recommended YouTube videos from within the incognito browsing session will inevitably be lost when it is closed.

As a side note, desktop users can use a browser extension to export the list of open tabs, but mobile browsers usually can not. However, mobile browsers might deny basic features such as saving pages and screenshots in incognito mode, making it unattractive to use. And currently, there is no way to back up cookies from incognito mode on either browser type.

Animorphs is a book series by K. A. Applegate featuring several teenagers who have a special power: they can morph into various animals whose DNA they have absorbed through alien technology. However, if they stay morphed for over two hours, they will get stuck in that form until they die (this is presumably where the "two hours" in the comic comes from).

In this comic Randall pokes fun at this by relating it to surfing in incognito mode/privacy mode in a browser. As explained above, staying for too long in incognito mode may cause the user to become "stuck" in this mode until something causes the browser to close, such as the browser/computer crashing or a power failure. This is analogous to the Animorphs who become stuck in animal form if they spend too long in that form.

An alternative interpretation revolves around the use of incognito/private browsing modes when the user is paranoid. They may use this mode if, for example, they don't want the risk of anyone else discovering what they've been doing online, and they find it safer to simply use incognito mode rather than manually deleting the relevant cookies and browsing history afterwards. If they use this mode a lot, the sense of paranoia that initially led them to use incognito mode can reinforce itself, and over time they may become uncomfortable browsing outside of incognito mode. This is another way in which one may become "trapped" in incognito mode after extended use.

Relation to Animorphs[edit]

The caption explains that tech tips from Animorphs are the worst, i.e. the woman is an Animorph, and this was not good advice.[citation needed]

The title text continues the idea that an Animorph tech support team would be the worst possible explaining that their solutions are always the same. And then it gives an example which references a common occurrence in the Animorphs book series wherein the protagonists uses their ability to morph into animals to infiltrate enemy strongholds. In the example it is an update for Apple's OS X (a popular commercial operating system), that broke something. The solution is to infiltrate Apple by morphing apples. Morphing into fruit is nonsensical within the rules for morphing (as put forth in the books), since the children can only turn into animals (and not into fruit, like apples). It would also be very ineffective, since fruit can't move on their own.[citation needed] Plus, Apple Inc. has little to do with actual apples, so this is not a good form to infiltrate their headquarters (morphing into bugs or even Apple's employees would be more effective, and is allowed by books' rules). Randall is not the first to propose morphing into vegetables as an Animorph's parody.

Animorphs has been referenced before, first only in the title texts of 1187: Aspect Ratio and 1360: Old Files, and then later in the main comic in 1380: Manual for Civilization, with the books being the actual manual...


[A woman with long blonde hair (maybe a version of Blondie) holds both arms up as she addresses Cueball who is sitting in an office chair working on his laptop.]
Woman: ...But remember—if you browse in incognito mode for more than two hours, you'll be trapped there forever!
[Caption below the panel:]
Animorphs tech tips

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Is this a new female character? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think it is just Blondie. She also has similar details in 495: Secretary: Part 2 and 752: Phobia. Blondie is a generic character that has long blonde hair, which fits the bill. --Kynde (talk) 16:03, 29 March 2017 (UTC)
Given that the title text references animorphs giving bad tech support, and that one of the animorphs is a young blonde woman, it's entirely possible that the female character is Rachel. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 22:32, 5 September 2019 (UTC)

This may be related to several news reports regarding an easter egg found in incognito mode (where a "wink" ;) emoticon shows in the "tab count" field if you have more than 100 tabs open - many news sites (independent, daily telegraph) are suggesting that this is google showing that they know their incognito mode is used to look at pornography (100+ tabs of it apparently!) Cprobertson1 (talk) 14:32, 29 March 2017 (UTC)

Did you just find the solution of how to end a parenthetical statement with an emoticon!? 541: TED Talk 625571b7-aa66-4f98-ac5c-92464cfb4ed8 (talk) 14:48, 29 March 2017 (UTC)

Am I the only one who primarily uses Incognito mode for browsing, even on my personal computer and mobile device? I just don't want other people "accidentally" logging into my accounts if they borrow my device "just to check an email." Nialpxe (talk) 14:48, 29 March 2017 (UTC)

Not the only one. But one could basically say you are trapped in it forever... 15:01, 29 March 2017 (UTC)

I have a habit of checking xkcd every few minutes to see if there is something new. I found this one after spending about 2 hours reading up on superheroes on incognito mode. (Because of that, this was one of the funniest ones so far for me! :)

United States legislation

It may be fair to mention this piece of legislation that has practically passed: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/03/for-sale-your-private-browsing-history/ 19:54, 29 March 2017 (UTC)

Incognito mode does not save you from that. It only affects what data remains on your machine while that bill regulates what your ISP can do with the information they extract from the data you send over the wire. With HTTPS they can at least only see which servers you communicate with but that can be bad enough. The only way around that is to use a VPN (which wraps all communication in a secure channel to the VPN provider's server) but then you have to trust the VPN provider (and possibly their ISP) not to sell your data.-- 11:22, 30 March 2017 (UTC)
Not "possibly". Using VPN can save you from your ISP but will give all those information to the VPN provider's ISP. -- Hkmaly (talk) 01:23, 31 March 2017 (UTC)
What I wanted to imply was a) with traffic from different VPN users using the same endpoint it's way harder to link individual connections to a specific user (especially with HTTPS when you can't rely on any request or response data) and b) you should always choose an endpoint in a country where ISPs can't legally sell that information. That way it's more important that you can trust your VPN provider than their ISP. Onion routing such as TOR can help with that but it has some disadvantages as well (especially speed and complexity). But in general you're right.-- 21:38, 31 March 2017 (UTC)
I got that impression too, that it's on Randall's mind, but I'm actually against adding such trivia unless the comic spells out the issue itself. (Also I'm personally just relieved that all the big ISPs came out and said "we didn't sell your data like that in the past and we're not about to do it now") 02:52, 4 April 2017 (UTC)

Wonder if today's comic (2017-03-31) will be the April fools' comic of 2017, or if there will be an extra comic tomorrow - Saturday, or if today's comic won't even come out until tomorrow, to be released on April 1st, or if Randall will just skip it this year, as it is not a release day this year, after all the troubles he had with releasing Garden too late last year...? I hope there will be one, because the last three years folls' comics have been great :-) --Kynde (talk) 10:39, 31 March 2017 (UTC)

The paragraph of explanation on Google Chrome's Incognito Mode used to mention "people standing behind you", so I thought this was funny before I read the text when I had read just the title and seen the picture. Is it worth mentioning something to this effect in the explanation? There is an extra pun in the image because the speaker is standing behind the browser, I guess that could be the source of the initial ellipsis. 12:44, 2 April 2017 (UTC)

I'll use an anonymous search engine within an incognito session to view sites via proxy, so I feel pretty secure. Hang on, someone's knocking at the door. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 00:06, 9 April 2017 (UTC)