User Friendly is a daily webcomic about the staff of a small, fictional internet service provider, Columbia Internet. The strip's humor tends to be centered around technology jokes and geek humor.
Drawn and authored by J.D. Frazer, a.k.a. "Illiad", it has been running since November 17 1997. It is considered one of the first webcomics to achieve success in the way of being self-supported. This is is probably because of being one of the first webcomics, and his targeting of a specific web audience, which is tech related people, the most of which were abundant in the internet at the time it started.
It is remarkable for being updated daily since it started in 1997, since most webcomics are updated only a few times a week.
There is a running storyline and sometimes several days worth of comics are drawn in advance, but the Sunday comic is always drawn for immediate release and breaks from the regular storyline. The Sunday strip is based on current events and is in full color, unlike the regular daily strips.
Periodically, there will be "nag-strips" which are special strips drawn for promotional purposes. These strips appear for 30 seconds before jumping to the daily strip. The content of these strips is to ask for donations or introduce advertisers, often presented by the characters or a cameo by Illiad.
started when J.D. Frazer
, working as creative director for a Canadian ISP, started doodling a few cartoon jokes about his coworkers and boss. His boss encouraged him to post them online. Then people started emailing him, asking for more cartoons. Before that, he tried another comic, Dust Puppies
, and sent it to six major syndicates, but was rejected by all.
The cartoon has been running online since November 17 1997.
It is regarded as one of the first webcomics to achieve success, both financially and by popularity. It's also one of the few self-sufficient webcomics available, out of the thousand ones available on the internet. His revenues come from advertising, sponsorships, the printed O'Reilly books and merchandising.
In late 1999, User Friendly and Sluggy Freelance swapped a character (A.J. and Torg).
J.D. Frazer made a cameo appearance in the webcomic Penny Arcade, on April 7, 1999. and, according to Penny Arcade's wikia, also on August 20, 1999.
In 2000, the Waiting For Bob webcomic ran a series of comics where several of the characters visited Columbia Internet to have them design and host a website advertising their product, "Caf".
Since 2000, User Friendly is published in a variety of newspapers, including The National Post, one of Canada's leading national newspapers.
Since 2001, several cartoon compilations has been published by O'Reilly Media. See User Friendly#Bibliography
In late 2007, it was part of the exhibit Infinite Canvas: The Art of Webcomics in the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA).
A.J., Illiad's alter ego, represents "the creative guy" in the strip, maintaining and designing websites. As a web designer
, he's uncomfortably crammed in that tiny crevice between the techies and the marketing
people. This means he's not disliked by anyone, but they all look at him funny from time to time. A.J. is shy and sensitive, loves most computer games and nifty art, and has a big brother relationship with the Dust Puppy. A.J. is terrified of grues
and attempts to avoid them. He was released from the company on two separate occasions, but returned shortly thereafter.
In the strip, he and Miranda (another character) are now dating. They also have previously dated, but split up over a misunderstanding.
The Chief is Columbia Internet's CEO
. He is the leader for the techies and salespeople.
Illiad based the character on a former boss:
The Chief is based on my business mentor. He was the vice president that I reported to back in the day. The Chief, like my mentor, is tall (!) and thin and sports a bushy ring around a bald crown, plus a very thick moustache.
The Chief bears a superficial resemblance to the Pointy-Haired Boss of Dilbert fame. However, Illiad says that The Chief was not inspired by the Dilbert character.
Born in a server
from a combination of dust
events, the Dust Puppy looks similar to a ball of dust and lint, with eyes, feet and an occasional big toothy smile. He was briefly absent from the strip after accidentally being blown with compressed air while sleeping inside a dusty server.
Although the Dust Puppy is very innocent and unworldly, he plays a superb game of Quake.
He also created an artificial intelligence named Erwin, with whom he has been known to do occasional song performances (or filks).
Dust Puppy is liked by most of the other characters with the exceptions of Stef and the Dust Puppy's evil nemesis, the Crud Puppy.
Crud Puppy (Lord Ignatius Crud), is the evil twin
and nemesis of Dust Puppy and sometimes takes the role of "bad guy" in the series. Examples include playing the CEO of AOL or controlling a "The Thing" suit. The Crud Puppy first appeared in the strip on February 24 1998
Erwin first appeared in the 1998-01-25
Erwin is a highly advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI)
created overnight during experimentation
in artificial intelligence by the Dust Puppy
, who was feeling kind of bored. Erwin is written in COBOL
because Dust Puppy "lost a bet". Erwin passes the Turing test
with flying colours, and has a dry sense of humour
. He is an expert on any subject that is covered on the World Wide Web
, such as Elvis sightings
and alien conspiracies
. Erwin is rather self-centered, and he is fond of mischievous pranks.
Originally, Erwin occupied the classic 'monitor and keyboard' type computer with an x86 computer architecture, but was later given such residences as an iMac, a Palm III, a Coleco Adam on Mir, a Furby, a nuclear weapon guidance system, an SGI O2, a Hewlett-Packard Calculator (with reverse Polish notation, which meant that Erwin talked like Yoda for weeks afterward), a Lego Mindstorms construction, a Tamagotchi, a Segway, an IBM PC 5150, a Timber Wolf-class BattleMech, and an internet equipped toilet as a punishment for insulting Hastur, (with Dust Puppy being the toilet brush).
Greg is in charge of Technical Support in the strip. In other words, he's the guy that customers whine to when something goes wrong. He blows off steam by playing visceral games and doing Bad Things
to the salespeople. He's not a bad sort, but his grip on his sanity hovers somewhere between weak and non-existent, and he once worked for Microsoft Quality Assurance
Mike is the System Administrator of the strip, and is responsible for the smooth running of the network at the office. He's bright but prone to fits of anxiety. His worst nightmare is being locked in a room with a sweaty Windows 95 programmer, and no weapons in sight. He loves hot ramen, straight out of a styrofoam cup.
Miranda's character is a trained systems technologist, an experienced UNIX
sysadmin, and very, very female
. Her technical abilities unnerve the other techs, but her obvious physical charms compel them to stare at her, except for Pitr
, who is convinced she is evil
. Although she has few character flaws, she does express sadistic tendencies, especially towards marketers and lusers
She and A.J. are now dating although she was previously frustrated by his inability to express himself and his love for her. This comes after years of missed opportunities and misunderstandings, such as when A.J. poured his feelings into an email and Miranda mistook it for the ILOVEYOU email worm and deleted it unread.
Pitr is the admin of the Columbia Internet server, and a self proclaimed Linux
guru. He suddenly began to speak with a fake Slavic accent as part of his program to "Become an Evil Genius." He has almost succeeded in taking over the planet several times. His sworn enemy is Sid
, who seems to outdo him at every turn. Pitr's achievements include: making the world's (second) strongest coffee, merging Coca-Cola
into Pitr-Cola and making Columbia Internet millions with a nuclear weapon
purchased from Russia
, and the infamous Vigor
Sid is the oldest of the geeks and very knowledgeable. His advanced age gives him the upper hand against Pitr
, whom he has outdone on several occasions, including in a coffee brewing competition and in a round of Jeopardy!
that was hacked in favor of Sid, by Sid. Unlike Pitr, he has no ambitions for world domination per se, but he is a friend of Hastur
(based on the H. P. Lovecraft
Sid's beautiful daughter named after the computer language Perl
. Pearl is often seen getting the better of the boys, the antagonist of Miranda, and occasionally the object of Pitr's affections much to the chagrin of Sid.
The Smiling Man is the company Controller. He is in charge of accounts
and expenditures. He smiles all day, for no reason. This in itself is enough to terrify most normal human beings (even via phone). However, the Dust Puppy
, the "Evilphish" and a consultant
in a purple suit have managed to get him to stop smiling first. His favourite wallpaper is a large, complex, and utterly meaningless spreadsheet
Stef is the strip's Corporate Sales Manager. He runs most of the marketing efforts within the firm, often selling things before they exist. He is a stereotypical marketer, with an enormous ego and a condescending attitude toward the techies; they detest him and frequently retaliate with pranks. He sucks at Quake
, even once managing to die at the startup screen in Quake III Arena
; in addition, he manages to die by falling into lava in any game that contains it, including games where it is normally impossible to step in said lava. Although he admires Microsoft
and frequently defends their marketing tactics, infuriating the techies, he has a real problem with Microsoft salesmen, probably because they make much more money than he does. His attitude towards women is decidedly chauvinist; he lusts after Miranda who won't have anything to do with him. Stef is definitely gormless
as demonstrated on January 14 2005
Information on other characters and first appearance links to comics can be found at List of User Friendly characters.
Link of the day (LOTD)
Every day a link suggested by the community is posted to the main page. The sites selected are usually not well-known and mainly non-commercial. As the User Friendly community has grown larger being selected as the link of the day has a similar effect as being Slashdotted.
Several cartoon compilations have been published:
- User Friendly, v1.0, Plan Nine Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1-929462-39-5 (collects earlier strips)
- User Friendly, O'Reilly, 1999, ISBN 1-56592-673-0 January 25, 1998 - December 25, 1998 (misses out December 20 and probably some others)
- Evil Geniuses in a Nutshell, O'Reilly, 2000, ISBN 1-56592-861-X January 3, 1999 - December 11, 1999
- The Root of All Evil, O'Reilly, 2001, ISBN 0-596-00193-2 January 1, 2000 - December 31, 2000
- Even Grues Get Full, O'Reilly, 2003, ISBN 0-596-00566-0 January 1, 2001 - November 17, 2001
- User Friendly - Die Deutsche Dialekt-Ausgabe (translation to several German dialects) ISBN 3-89721-380-X
- Tech-support jokes
- The computer game NetHack and its Amulet of Yendor
- On-and-off romance between A.J. and Miranda
- Illiad, the web comic writer, sometimes puts in a cameo appearance, often in the "nag-strips." He is usually represented as a guy with a paper bag over his head and two-eye holes poked through the bag.
- Rivalry between Sid and Pitr for being the smartest genius.
- Pitr's quest to be an evil genius and take over the world.
- Erwin's transfer between various corporeal machine embodiments for his artificial intelligence.
- The RIAA, MPAA, Microsoft, SCO Group, and other targets of geek ire.
- The disconnect between Stef's marketspeak and the geek lingo of the rest of the cast