December 4, 2020

The Study About IE Users Being Dumber than Opera and Chrome Users Was a Hoax

Here’s yet another reminder to question and consider about what you read as to source, currency, etc. Basically, does it sound fake. Does it sound to good to be true. Yes, common sense.  However,  common sense can also be assisted by great info and digital literacy skills that are more important now than ever before. This is not going to change anytime soon.

Last Week

Last week, a sizable number of  mainstream and tech news organizations reported on a study conducted by a company named AptiQuant Psychometric Consulting Co. in Vancouver BC. Here’s how a CBS News story about the study opened:

According to AptiQuant, a “psychometric consulting” firm that provides hiring exams for businesses, Internet Explorer users are kind of stupid.

AptiQuant called their post, “Is Internet Explorer For The Dumb? A New Study Suggests Exactly That.” Ouch!

The Canada-based company gave online IQ tests to more than 100,000 people. “Visitors arrived either through organic searches or through advertisements on other sites, and AptiQuant made a note of which browser each test taker was using,” reports PC World.

Here are few examples of stories about the study. It’s easy to find more reports.

This Week

From iTNews:

The hoax admission came after French psychometric testing company CentralTest was forced to deny any link to AptiQuant.

CentralTest, which claimed 3500 customers and nearly 200 partners worldwide, said it had no relationship to AptiQuant, a Canadian business that claimed to be an IQ tester and whose website bore a striking similarity to the French company.

“We are trying to find AptiQuant in our archives but they have never been our client, there’s been no partnership or distributorship [relationship],” a spokesman told iTnews.

Doing the Research

Both iTnews and TheNextWeb have reports about the hoax was discovered by using a press release, the telephone, and WHOIS database lookups. Impressive work. In fact, the iTnews report might be worth sharing during training classes and with colleagues.

AptiQuant Admission

Now, the person behind the hoax has come clean.

1. “Internet Explorer Study Was Indeed A Hoax” (via AptiQuant Blog)

Ok, now that the cat is out of the bag, I agree that this study was a total hoax. There is no company called AptiQuant, and no such survey was ever done. We are really surprised that it took so long for people to figure it out, a mere “whois” on the domain could have revealed it all.

2. “How the hoax started and propagated” (via AptiQuant Blog)

While adding some exciting new features to my website, it was getting more and more difficult to support IE version 6.0 to 8.0. Particularly IE 6.0. There is no doubt about IE’s lack of compatibility with web standards (not IE 9.0 though). I am sure every web-developer in the world would agree with me over this, and I am sure every web-developer has at least once in their lifetime felt that how much better the world would be, if there was no IE. I would like to congratulate Micro$oft for making IE 9.0 so compatible, but this whole hoax thing was targeted at IE 6.0 to 8.0

3. “Tell-Tale signs that should have uncovered the hoax in less than 5 minutes!”

Final Thoughts

  • While some news organizations have updated their original stories to report the story being a hoax, others have not. Plus the original news releases via PR Web are still online along with the full text of the fake study.  While it would be great to footnote all of the fake material with an update it’s not possible. However, excellent info literacy and web search, and research skills can help.
  • Remember, once it’s out on the web it’s just about impossible to get back especially after a few minutes. In other words, control of the material is gone once you click “send” or “publish.”
  • Of course, if you subscribe to the belief that any mention is a good mention than this hoax was a success. The person and his legitimate web sites got some notice and In this time of “it’s all about social media” his explanation blog posts have been tweeted, retweeted, “plussed,” and like a few thousand times.
  • Hoaxes are always going to happen with some more dangerous than others. We’re all going to get caught from time to time. However, with solid search, research, and info literacy skills users can do their best to make the determination of legit vs. hoax as quickly as possible. Of course, these crucial skills also apply to what one reads on social media, receives in their email, or hears on the phone from a telemarketer. For example, while it’s a challenge for many people to understand, users are constantly tricked into sending money and giving up passwords, phone numbers, and logins.

Hat Tip/Thanks: Jill O’Neill

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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