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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

August 3, 2011 at 3:39 PM

Study claiming Internet Explorer users have lower IQs? Bogus.

The original story caused a lot of chatter and sniggering: Users of the Internet Explorer browser, supposedly, had lower IQs than those who used rival browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Camino. That was — again, supposedly — according to a study conducted by a Canadian firm called AptiQuant.

That story was carried by media outlets including the BBC, CBS, CNN and many tech blogs.

Turns out, the study was a hoax, apparently perpetrated by a computer programmer/entrepreneur frustrated by IE.

The BBC reported Wednesday that AptiQuant’s website was only recently set up and that staff images were copied from a legitimate business in Paris.

The BBC reported:

Questions about the authenticity of the story were raised by readers of the BBC website who established that the company which put out the research — ApTiquant [sic] — appeared to have only set up its website in the past month

Thumbnail images of the firm’s staff on the website also matched those on the site of French research company Central Test, although many of the names had been changed. The BBC contacted Central Test who confirmed that they had been made aware of the copy but had no knowledge of ApTiquant or its activities.

Today, the home page for the website www.aptiquant.com says this:

AptiQuant was set up in late July 2011 by comparison shopping website AtCheap.com, in order to launch a fake “study” called “Intelligent Quotient and Browser Usage.” … The main purpose behind this hoax was to create awareness about the incompatibilities of IE6, and not to insult or hurt anyone.

AptiQuant is not related to Central Test in any way.

A man identifying himself as Tarandeep Gill, a computer programmer/web developer/entrepreneur who started AtCheap.com, said on the website that he takes responsibility for the hoax.

Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw sounded off on the hoax on Twitter today: “Maybe the hoax was less about the IQ of browser users and a giant test on the IQ of the collective news/social beast. Which failed it.”

Shaw pointed to an article on SiliconFilter that examined reasons why the bogus story got so much play. Among the reasons SiliconFilter listed: The pressure to write more stories, faster, and get more pageviews, and an undercurrent of anti-Microsoft sentiment on many tech blogs. “If the story had claimed that Safari users were significantly dumber than Chrome users, chances are we would have seen a bit more pushback and less glee,” the article says.

What the hoax illustrated, Shaw said over the phone later today, “is how easy it is for people to have their preconceived notions validated.”

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