For the technology giants (especially Microsoft and Google), the “browser loyalty” war is one of the more important. IE has long been the Goliath in the field, but Chrome is started to move in on its territory. For that reason, a report released by AntiQuant last month seemed to be a great nod to Chrome and its users: It claimed that users of Chrome, Opera, and Firefox had a substantially higher average IQ than users of Internet Explorer (especially version 6 and 8). The report took off, and was re-posted on a number of major news sites, including BBC. It’s just too bad the entire study was a hoax.
The Fake Study
The study released by AptiQuant was easy to confuse with a real report: It included a full-length PDF report with charts, methodological reporting, and more. Here’s the main graph from the report itself:
According to the report, IE version 6 and version 8 users had the lowest IQ. The highest IQs belong to Opera, Camino, Safari, Chrome, and Firefox users. The study also examines the user-base by IQ percentile and how the current IQs of browser users compare to the IQs from 2006.
The study’s initial conclusions were stated professionally: “From the test results, it is a clear indication that individuals on the lower side of the IQ scale tend to resist a change/upgrade of their browsers.” However, the second paragraph of the conclusions got to the author’s real point and gave the first inkling that this study was a few steps away from legitimate.
The Hoax Discovered
The final paragraph of the study reads as follows:
It is common knowledge, that Internet Explorer Versions to 6.0 to 8.0 are highly incompatible with modern web standards. In order to make websites work properly on these browsers, web developers have to spend a lot of unnecessary effort. This results in an extra financial strain on web projects, and has over the last decade cost millions of man-hours to IT companies. Now that we have a statistical pattern on the continuous usage of incompatible browsers, better steps can be taken to eradicate this nuisance.
The difficulties with IE 6.0 and 8.0 were the reasons this fake study was created. The author, Tarandeep Gill, made the study after struggling to add new features to his eCommerce website. He had to spend a lot of extra time working with the “nuisance” of IE 6.0 and 8.0 incompatibilities. But it wasn’t Gill who revealed the study as a hoax. Rather, an interested reader researched the site and found it had only launched in mid-July.
Gill then confirmed that the site and study were both a hoax, and every page is now labeled clearly as such. Gill has also created additional posts explaining why he made the posts and going into how the fake study spread. While he thinks it funny how seriously people took his hoax, he also feels is served its purpose: “to create awareness about the incompatibilities of IE6 and how it is pulling back innovation.”
[Sources include: AntiQuant & Scientific American]