Does using Internet Explorer make you stupid? I think not, but maybe smart people are willing to believe any lies about Internet users.

Recently, a Canadian firm called ApTiquant issued a press release saying that it conducted an online IQ test using over 100,000 people. It recorded the results and the web browser used by the participants. They produced a downloadable white paper that contains a couple impressive looking graphs that show people using Internet Explorer 6 had lower than average IQ.

ApTiquantIQ

Users of Internet Explorer 6 are getting stoopid. Chart from ApTiquant

The story was picked up by many media outlets including CNN, Forbes, and others. Some even included an explanation of why this data would be expected. For instance, it could be that Internet Explorer 6 was released in 2001 and so anyone who was still using it would be more likely to be poor and have lower educational attainment.

Another is that many users of Internet Explorer just use the product because it was installed by default when purchasing a computer. Users of other browsers often need to download it, install it, and use it. Only more determined people, who presumably are also of higher intelligence will do this. As they exit the population of Internet Explorer users, they leave behind a pool of less intelligent users.

Finally, certain companies and the government agencies require all employees to use a specific browser, like IE6, to maintain compatibility with line of business websites. This implies workers at organizations that lack IT resources to upgrade internal tools bring down the average.

But alternative views did appear. The BBC quoted Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University’s Statistical Laboratory, who said: “I believe these figures are implausibly low – and an insult to IE users.”

Eventually, it was revealed that the whole story was a hoax. There is no company called ApTiquant. No IQ tests were performed and the white paper was a fabrication. The ruse was  perpetrated by an online shopping comparison website called AtCheap.com to raise awareness that Internet Explorer 6 was not compliant to web standards and rendered many web pages incorrectly. The company encourages users of IE6 to switch to a more modern browser in order to view more websites in a manner that their creators intended.

(See part 2 of this story here.)

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