1965: Background Apps

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Background Apps
My plane banner company gets business by flying around with a banner showing a <div> tag, waiting for a web developer to get frustrated enough to order a matching </div>.
Title text: My plane banner company gets business by flying around with a banner showing a <div> tag, waiting for a web developer to get frustrated enough to order a matching </div>.


Background apps (apps in the recently used list) on both iOS and Android are in one of several paused states and do not usually consume much battery power; they only take up some memory. Closing them means that if you want to use the app again later, it will need to reload fully which likely uses up "very slightly" more battery. Wired had a detailed article on this topic a couple years ago. However, a much better reason to close the apps is to free up RAM/memory to make the programs run faster or even prevent them from crashing. Ultimately, whether or not you should close your apps depends on whether you prioritize battery lifetime or performance. (In Randall's case, low batteries tend to be something of a problem, and he references this in other comics as in 1373: Screenshot, 1802: Phone and 1872: Backup Batteries.)

The joke at first is that the misconception is so prevalent and irritating that a person would go to the trouble of renting a banner plane just to dispel it. However, the reasoning behind such an extreme action is then questioned by a second person, not only for the extreme measure of renting a plane but also for feeling the need to correct the misconception at all; however, following the internal logic of the comic, the second person also communicates via banner plane. (This is arguably hypocritical, as they themselves are chartering a plane for an equally, if not more, inane reason. Obviously, this would not happen in real life.[citation needed]) The first person responds, again via plane, once again just to apologize to the second person and explain their actions.

At this point, the comic has left the initial joke about battery use entirely behind, and becomes a commentary about the logic of a world where people can converse via banner planes. In the final panel, the second person rents the plane yet again to respond to the first person's response, being no less smug or hypocritical than before. Meanwhile, four more people have chartered four different planes:

  • One to urge the first two people to have their conversation somewhere private instead of flying planes with banners
  • Another to comment on how surprisingly cheap the banners are to rent, thus explaining how the logic of the comic is possible in the first place
  • A third just to show off their own banner
  • A fourth displaying the opening part of the HTML <marquee> "marquee" </marquee> tag, a proprietary non-standard extension to HTML, now obsolete and deprecated[1] tag that many web organizations advise against using, which is used to cause a message to scroll across the web page, much as the plane is flying across the sky.

The fairly obvious parallel here is to using various Internet forums for "unsolicited tech advice to strangers," smug responses, comments on others' advice, off-topic rejoinders, and all the other things that go on there constantly. It seems ludicrous to rent airplane banners for such trivial purposes, but there are non-trivial resources involved in the global distribution of electronic communication, as well, and their use for purposes such as this seems ludicrous once Randall makes one think about it, and underlines that none of what is written on the banner may have anything to do with Randall's own opinions.

The title text is spoken by a plane banner company owner, who uses the insidious tactic of flying around with a banner of an unmatched HTML tag, just to compel obsessive people into renting banner space to make it syntactically correct. This may be a reference to 859: ( or 1144: Tags.

The theme of the (mis)use of airplanes and banners has previously been explored in 1355: Airplane Message.


[A small airplane with a trailing banner is flying across the panel from left to right with four small clouds spread out beneath the banner. The long banner reads:]
Banner: People! Closing background apps when you're not using them makes your phone battery drain faster, not slower! Stop it!
[A beat panel without a plane, but just the sky with two birds to the left and three clouds.]
[The same airplane flies back from right to left, trailing a new banner with clouds both above and beneath the banner/plane, and a bird to the right.]
Banner: What kind of person charters a plane to give unsolicited tech advice to strangers?
[A second beat panel follows without a plane, but just the sky with three clouds.]
[The plane returns once again from the left with another banner. Two clouds are in front/below the plane and two birds can be seen.]
Banner: OK, fair. Sorry. I guess I'm just angry about other stuff and it's coming out here.
[Without a beat panel the original plane returns at the top of the panel, once again returning from right to left with another very long banner. But no less than four other planes, each with smaller and smaller banners are also shown flying beneath it among three clouds and three birds. The planes alter direction so the second plane below the original planes banner is flying to the right, the third plane is right below the second flying the other way towards left, and just beneath that is the fourth plane flying to the right. A final plane is flying to the left, beneath the third planes banner, at the same height as the fourth, they look as if they are on a collision course. This last planes banner is very short and the bottom end is partly beneath the panels frame, partly obscuring the text. All five planes are clearly different types, thus making it clear that the plane from the first three panels and the top one in this panel are the same plane, hired by two different persons.]
Banner 1: No worries. Just maybe spend as much time reflecting on your own motivation for correcting people as you have on theirs for closing apps.
Banner 2: Can you two please have this conversation somewhere else?
Banner 3: Wow, these banners are surprisingly cheap to rent.
Banner 4: Haha, I got one, too!
Banner 5: <Marquee>


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Honestly, the fact that there isn't closing tag doesn't bother me that much. It might bother me more if HTML tags were the same length. When I first started HTML, I styled all my opening tags with a space < like-this>, just so it could be the same length as a closing tag, </like-this>. It worked, but I eventually gave up and accepted it... Linker (talk) 18:50, 9 March 2018 (UTC)

App closing advice

Okay, so I've never edited before, but I found an article from a year and a half ago here that relates to closing apps and batteries. 16:22, 9 March 2018 (UTC)

That's better than the CNET article I found. Updated to use yours, thanks. TheAnvil (talk) 17:52, 9 March 2018 (UTC)

Not necessarily true

This sounds like good advice if you have a flagship phone with boatloads of RAM, but those of us that have to save money by having a midrange or budget phone absolutely can not leave everything running and using RAM when not in use. On my Nexus 5X (2GB) if I don't close absolutely everything other than what I am actively using the phone will run too slow to be useful, and some apps will even crash. Especially true with Google Maps which just dominates resources. 17:57, 9 March 2018 (UTC)

I don't know how Android works, but on iOS, if low on memory, the system will automatically purge background apps to free up RAM. 19:10, 9 March 2018 (UTC)

I too have a low end android phone (v4.1.2), and I can tell you that it doesn't automatically close apps when it runs out of memory. I can have my foreground app crash (while seeing the IOU memory message) and the background apps are still open. It drives me mad when people claim that the memory management is perfect, and cannot be improved by human management. The user has special knowledge that the OS doesn't. I.E. I am done with a certain app, and won't be using it for a while. 19:39, 9 March 2018 (UTC)

My experience shows that an Android phone indeed tries to conserve memory, but is rather stupid about it. E.g. if I have a couple of tabs open in Chrome, this usually means I'm actually switching between them. Yet, even though I'm in Chrome at the moment, when memory runs out it will not kill unused apps - no, it will look for room in the cache, meaning that the tabs will reload at every switch. More bandwith usage when not on WiFi. Slower browsing. Losing state for script-driven sites, start again. Dynamic content reloaded, that random article link that looked interesting - good luck finding it again... And so on. Killing apps really makes room for more tabs. So, the advice from first panel looked just weird at first sight - what does battery life have to do with that? I kill unused apps all the time and never even considered whether it would have any effect on battery. Logical fallacy: assume the reason for some action and criticize that. Surprizing on Randall's part. -- 20:59, 9 March 2018 (UTC)

It sounds like you're assuming Randall is making this statement out of his own belief in it, which I don't believe is the case at all; he's just using it as a comic device. Besides, you're all falling for his nerd-sniping trap! Stop while you still can! Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 21:18, 9 March 2018 (UTC)
This drives me crazy too; The sheer number of apps which launch upon system startup is idiotic. Every app wants to open quickly, so they preload as much as possible, even when I haven't used them & have no intention to. The phenomena of tabs getting cleared from the cache is particularly loathsome. One might as well just not have tabs at all & only show a series of History links, if several pages can't be kept open at once. I frequently open secondary tabs to locate & cite references for a comment in an existing tab, only to have the comment page reload when I return to insert the relevant link into my comment. Note to Android developers: Don't clear downloaded data out of the cache if there's any local data you could clear instead. ProphetZarquon (talk) 15:04, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
Never believe the Android developing team. Background apps can kill your battery like crazy, specially spyware apps like Chrome which are constantly "synchronizing".
Wear leveling

Do android systems cache/swap memory to the eMMC? If so, these background apps could cause (perhaps trivial) extra wear cycles on my finite, non removable storage.Cutech (talk) 07:46, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

Meaning of "<marquee>" banner

It may be that the "<marquee>" banner is not a blank template but rather a reference to the obsolete HTML tag (https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/HTML/Element/marquee).

  • You're absolutely right, except that "deprecated" is only half the story: it was never a W3C-compliant tag to start with (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquee_element). And, given the nature of plane-pulled banners, it's also very obviously a reference to the similarity of behavior. Plus, it also meshes with the title-text, since that also delves into HTML both by talking about the Div tag and by the fact that the plane-pulled marquee tag is also un-closed. 16:58, 9 March 2018 (UTC)
Comic is about compulsive messaging, not battery usage specifically?

Per the edit performed by, I don't believe this comic is specifically about background apps or airplane banners. As that added content in the explanation points out, this comic seems to be a commemtary on typical exchanges in forum discussions across the web on a variety of topics. It makes me wonder if Randall has recently come across a similar exchange himself and is making jabs at the absurd posts that are so common in that type of environment. It seems the title of the comic is not directly related to its primary focus, which IMHO is not uncommon for Randall! (Warning: Randall may be nerd-sniping us in this case, maybe seeing if he can start a similar exchange within our discussion!)

On a separate topic, aren't we supposed to avoid adding section headers within the discussion comments because they somehow mess with automated page layout templates? Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 19:25, 9 March 2018 (UTC)

Agreed and have removed and made bold headers in stead. --Kynde (talk) 22:27, 9 March 2018 (UTC)
nontrivial resources

"but there are non-trivial resources involved in the global distribution of electronic communication" ... well, technically, yes. Except that unlike the planes, those resources are optimized for high capacity; your forum post would "consume" very little of those resources, if anything at all, as most devices involved will consume same amount of electricity when turned on no matter how much communication they exchange. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:11, 9 March 2018 (UTC)

Banner prices

Looks like these banners cost on the order of $500/hour (e.g. http://www.flyskyads.com/what-it-costs/). -- 02:40, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

Randall is even wrong here. While in THEORY a background application does not consume any power, there are so many exceptions that for an average users it can be hard to know if one of your running applications is one of those with an exception that continues to use a lot of battery (exceptions include things that can send notifications, anything with background audio and things using location services). 09:12, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

You're missing the point. The joke here is the fact that he (along with other people) is renting extremely expensive banners for a trivial reason. Also, you misspelled Randall"s name, I've edited that for you. Herobrine (talk) 13:00, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

"Participants in online discussions sometimes become so focused on pointing out the perceived mistakes of others that they neglect good online practices and their computers crash." -But like... not really. You could be as obsessed with arguing on a forum as you want, and lack all kinds of 'good practice' online, and you'd still need a Sunday morning cartoon-esque level of coincidence for your keyboard warrioring to result in your computer crashing. We're really struggling for a 'crash' pun here I think. 13:29, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

Improbability of actually doing this

All the planes would have to be flying in nearby airspace, towing LED or LCD banners. There would also have to be individual observers, either on each plane or on the ground, ready to change the messages in real time. You would need a bunch of clairvoyants with very large lead times if you planned to do this if the planes towed traditional pre-printed or pre-assembled banners. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 04:15, 18 March 2018 (UTC)

Although once you'd got the banners printed, you'd probably want to keep using them. I could see the various parties involved in this conversation (if indeed it is multiple parties) coordinating to bring this show to multiple venues over time.Jkshapiro (talk) 15:52, 7 January 2024 (UTC)

I mostly close background apps because I want to have an overview of the recent apps. Sometimes I use three or more at a time, I don't want to scroll past others for that. Also, I sometimes use the empty space above to go to the home screen. Also, my phone is extremely eager to close background apps (including the music player or Chrome while I'm selecting a file to attach on a website), so it would be closed anyway. Fabian42 (talk) 09:47, 19 March 2018 (UTC)

I expect few people close background apps to conserve battery. I feel like most people would do it for the same reason as I do: Freeing up system resources (memory and processing power). Secondly, the "cheaper to leave open" argument (whether about battery or resources) is flawed, and the people who use this argument never seem to spot it: It depends how LONG. If I re-open the app in 2 minutes, sure, then I should have left it open. If I don't touch it for 24 hours, then sorry, closing it was the more efficient solution. The "leaving it open" cost is ONGOING. It keeps costing, while reopening the app costs once, the same cost no matter how long - in theory, anyway, depending on how sloppy the device is about said closure. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:42, 30 March 2018 (UTC)