1150: Instagram

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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I'm gonna call the cops and get Chad arrested for theft, then move all my stuff to the house across the street. Hopefully the owners there are more responsible.
Title text: I'm gonna call the cops and get Chad arrested for theft, then move all my stuff to the house across the street. Hopefully the owners there are more responsible.


As indicated by the title, this comic is an allegory for a controversy over Instagram, a photo-sharing social network now owned by Facebook. In December 2012, Instagram changed their terms of use, allowing the network to sell user-uploaded images, without profit to the content generators. This infuriated many users, who closed their accounts or stopped uploading images.

In the comic Cueball tells his Cueball-like friend about his problem with Chad, who just sent him a note telling him that he no longer wants to store all this stuff that Cueball has left in his garage. Cueball left it there because Chad has nice shelves and lets him in to see his stuff whenever he wishes, so that was really convenient.

Chad's note tells Cueball that he has a month to move his shit — after that he will try to get rid of it by selling it on Craigslist.

Cueball is outraged, as this is not way to run a storage business. But when his friend asks him if he paid anything for this "storage business", it turns out that he did not. The friend then concludes that it is not a storage business.

This is exactly the problem with Instagram (or its users). A user does not pay anything, but to create an account you have to sign a terms of service/end user license agreement. A user has thus effectively signed their consent to whatever Instagram has written. Instagram can then change these terms if they give a forewarning (as Chad has done here). However, most users don't read the terms before clicking the "I agree" option, so it can come as a shock when Instagram uses the data in a way the user hadn't anticipated.

Instead of getting angry Cueball should thus just go and remove his stuff, but instead he is just going to almost (but not quite) stop giving Chad any more stuff.

This is also making fun of those Instagram users that complain about the new way of using their data, but at the same time keep uploading more pictures. The users have often developed a kind of addiction, so they cannot just stop sharing their life (in pictures).

In the title text Cueball continues with an idea of calling the cops. He thinks that Chad is a thief. He thus ignores that he left the stuff at Chad's house of his own accord. And after Chad has been arrested (which will of course never happen) he wishes to move all his stuff to another house, just to continue to get free storage.

There are two major flaws in this logic - and it is the same with the logic of the disgruntled Instagram users. You cannot accuse Instagram of stealing because it was you who gave them the images in the first place, and it is irresponsible to assume that this will not happen if you give your photos to another free social networking service (e.g. Facebook).

These kind of issues (with Facebook as the evildoer) are also the subject of 743: Infrastructures and 1390: Research Ethics.


[Cueball, raising a hand, is talking to his Cueball-like friend who is sitting by his computer.]
Cueball: I've been putting all my stuff in Chad's garage.
Cueball: He has nice shelves.
Cueball: And he lets me in to see it whenever I want.
[In the next panel, without a frame, there is a close up of a note. Above the note is a small black frame with Cueballs comment:]
Cueball (off-panel): But I got this note from him:
[The note:]
In like a month im gonna Craigslist all that shit you left in my garage
Just FYI
[Zoom in on Cueball who lifts both hands palms up.]
Cueball: It's an outrage! This is no way to run a storage business!
Friend (off-panel): Are you paying him to look after your stuff?
[Final frame almost like the first frame, but Cueball has taken his hands down.]
Cueball: No.
Friend: Then what he runs isn't a storage business.
Cueball: Well, I'm this close to not giving him any more stuff.
Friend: That'll teach him.

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Randall completely ignores the fact that "Chad" offered to store people's stuff for free and with no problems. That's how "Chad" ended up with a garage full of stuff. That's why the sudden notice that "Chad" was going to sell the stuff upset all those people. The hover text neglects to mention whether or not the people across the street are also offering to store people's stuff for free. 10:39, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

As well as the difference between leaving a clearly worded (though still rather jerk-y) note and slipping unclear language into the already bloated Terms of Service. - jerodast (talk) 11:53, 21 December 2012 (UTC)
The fact of the matter is, he may be storing the stuff for free, but there's nothing to say that there are "no problems" involved. Effectively, once it's in Chad's house, he owns it. In any case, there's nothing to stop Cueball from not giving Chad any more stuff, or taking his stuff back from the garage. Of course, I understand it's not going to be as easy taking stuff off Instagram, but there you go. --Jimmy C (talk) 14:17, 21 December 2012 (UTC)
Wow, 'Once it's in Chad's house, he owns it'? Remind me to never lend you anything. Letting someone store their stuff in your house does not mean you now own it, and if you sold it a judge would almost certainly not side with you. I have no idea why the explanation seems to suggest that the law would be on Chad's side. 14:37, 10 July 2021 (UTC)

Please note that a lot of people thought the new ToS allowed Instagram to sell their pictures but this is a misunderstanding of these ToS. This explanation should be slightly reworded in that sense. See this. -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Great explanation, but what is meant by "to sell user-uploaded images without profit"? Sell sth without profit sounds like a paradox... – St.nerol (talk) 14:23, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

The explanation says/means "without profit to the content generators" - i.e. the people who are uploading the images (content) to Instagram. I'm sure Instagram would be making a profit selling the images...just not the original uploaders --Dangerkeith3000 (talk) 15:45, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

I disagree with the second paragraph of the explanation. Cueball / content generators didn't "give" their stuff/photos, they merely accepted the offer of free storage. The terms and conditions of the agreement have been changed to benefit Chad/Instagram. There's no such thing as a free lunch...

Read the fourth panel again. --Jimmy C (talk) 02:03, 22 December 2012 (UTC)
The use of the word "giving " does not imply transference of ownership. The joke lies in the fact that there is no contract for storage facilities due to the absence of consideration.
But now it does have legal value, due to Instagram's terms of service. The slate.com link above sheds good light on this phenomenon. --Jimmy C (talk) 19:26, 26 December 2012 (UTC)
No, a legal agreement comes from common consent and the exchange of considerations. In reality, Instagram was forced in to a retraction because it failed to establish either and users complained +/- left. -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The "Explanation" above starts with the assertion that this comic makes sense by itself. No, it's crazy without the context provided by the title. The point of the comic is the unrealistic expectations that Instagram's users have. -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I was not aware of the Instagram back story and without understanding the title of this comic or how any of this pertained to Instagram I was still able to understand and appreciate the joke.--Matt
I thought the comic was sort of funny when I first read it, but when I saw the title everything really clicked. I wrote "the comic makes sense by itself" because it did to me before I noticed the word "Instagram." 22:56, 22 December 2012 (UTC)

Another slight difference is that when Chad sells Cueball's stuff, Cueball can't use it anymore. If Instagram sells its users' photos, they can still use them. If the users try to sell them though, they probably will make less money if Instagram sells them for less. Bugefun (talk) 05:39, 23 December 2012 (UTC)

Another difference is that Cueball can actually get the stuff back from Chad. Instagram users can't - I mean, they can't be sure Instagram is not keeping copy. -- Hkmaly (talk) 09:51, 27 December 2012 (UTC)

My question is more mundane and editorial: how do we decide, in comics like these, who Cueball is? The "official transcript" merely has "Man #1" and "Man #2". Cueball's usually pretty sensible (or, at least, usually not completely unreasonable), so who's to say a reasonable mapping here wouldn't be Cueball calmly typing at the computer, and "Friend" flaming about Chad's changing policies? —Scs (talk) 03:59, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

I agree completely. Although Cueball can be a real idiot in some comics (where there are only one), and the only sensible in comics where there are more than one. So when there are more than one Cueball, then Cueball category should be added, but neither of those present should be labeled Cueball in the transcript or the explain. I have adopted the name The Dude from the note from Chad, and then the other Cueball is the friend. This I have corrected in the transcript, and then I have added much more to the explain, calling the two The Dude and the friend. I have done similarly in other comics with more than one Cueball. It is important to remember that it is only the readers of the comic who calls him Cueball. Randall never do, and thus we cannot consider Cueball to have any specific way of behaving. Other characters like Black Hat is more clearly defined, but then again even Black Hat behaves very differently from comic to comic. Kynde (talk) 10:31, 5 July 2014 (UTC)
'The Dude' does NOT abide with this! (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I now agree. After having been through more of these comics I think at least one of them should be Cueball. And the official transcript never uses the name Cueball, which is an invention of explain xkcd. To me Cueball is mainly the one with the main plot point/protagonist, and this is the one that has things at Chad. I really disliked my own edit with "The Dude" when I read it today, and was horrified when realizing I was about to mend my own bad edit ;-) --Kynde (talk) 17:37, 1 January 2016 (UTC)

This Friend sounds like Beret Guy... 20:57, 28 February 2015 (UTC)

It's a pity you didn't think to elaborate. -Pennpenn 03:28, 11 March 2016 (UTC)

Just wanted to add that "Chad" is a commonly used name for an unprincipled or irresponsible male person in some areas of internet culture, memes, red-pill/blue-pill discussions. The female equivalent would be a Stacey and the opposite would be Good Guy Greg perhaps. AmbroseChapel (talk)

I think this comic was released before those terms really became a 'thing' AFAIK. I first saw those terms floating around boards in '17. 10:27, 27 March 2022 (UTC)