Update: The BBC has raised questions about AptiQuant's IE users survey and concluded it has been a hoax. Read further at your own risk -- or for your own amusement.
It's a question I've often asked myself: Why would anyone in their right mind continue to use Internet Explorer when so many better and free options are available? Now we have an answer, of sorts.
Vancouver-based testing firm AptiQuant Psychometric recently polled more than 100,000 English-speaking adults in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australasia. They were asked what version of browser they used, then asked to take a standard IQ test.
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The results: People who use Opera are most likely brainiacs; those who prefer Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Camino are, while not exactly Einstein, still smarter than your average bear; and those who use any flavor of Internet Explorer probably could not find their mouse with both hands and need help tying their shoes.
According to AptiQuant, IQs for IE users ranged from barely above 80 (for IE6) to about 95 (for IE8); the IQ of your average schmoe is 100. Even the smartest IE users are most likely dumber on average than somebody you happened to run into at Wal-Mart.
Worse, the average IQ for IE users has dropped by roughly 20 percent since AptiQuant's previous survey in 2006. Either IE users are getting dimmer each year or all the smart ones left for better options.
(For the record, I stopped using IE as my regular browser a few days after Firefox 1.0 came out. That was in late 2004. I've felt smarter ever since.)
One bright point for Microsofties: People who use IE with a Chrome frame plug-in are among the best and brightest. AptiQuant doesn't say how many people that group comprises, but I'd be surprised if it were more than a handful.
AptiQuant is now claiming IE users have threatened to sue the company over this report, though I have yet to see any independent reports confirming that; AptiQuant could just be making that bit up to capitalize on the attention it's suddenly getting.
AptiQuant CEO Leonard Howard was quick to point out that the act of using IE is not, by itself, proof you're an idiot; but if you happen to be an idiot, you're much more likely to use IE. Per the AptiQuant site:
[Howard] further went on to say that the company did not feel threatened at all by the lawsuit threats because they have all the scientific data and logs to back their claims. "A win in a court would only give a stamp of approval and more credibility to our report," he quipped.
The company spokesman said that they are really surprised by the unexpected attention that their study got. He said that the company first thought of doing this study when they were trying to add some new features to the website and found IE versions 6.0 and 7.0 extremely difficult to work with.
I can totally see the genesis of this survey: "What kind of moron would use this infernal browser? Let's find out."
To be fair, what this report really means is that people who buy a computer and never think to upgrade or switch browsers tend to be dumber than your average geek. Most of them probably aren't even aware of a browser being something separate from the Internet or the Google, for that matter. They turn the thing on, they type something into the search window, they click. And that's as much brain matter as they're willing to devote to it.
If all computers shipped with Chrome or Firefox as the default browser, they might fill the bottom spot just as easily as IE does.
A more reasonable experiment: Set a bunch of people loose in a room filled with computers, make them choose a browser from a drop-down list, then measure their IQs. I bet the results would skew much closer to the mean.
But IE users would still be dumber. Just my humble anti-Microsoft opinion.
Are IE users really not playing with a full deck? Toss your opinions into the hopper below or email me: email@example.com.
This article, "Just how stupid are Internet Explorer users?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.