Internet Explorer users: Don't call them dumb

Cringely won't make that mistake twice, even if a new study claims Chrome fans are better at math than IE users

Regular readers will remember that last August I wrote a post titled "Just how stupid are Internet Explorer users?" In it I quoted from a survey conducted by an obscure Canadian research firm called AptiQuant that "proved" people who use Internet Explorer are less intellectually endowed than people who use any other browser on the planet, and IE6 users in particular are a half step above paramecia on the evolutionary scale.

Anyone who's been in this business for as long as I have (that is, since the Millard Fillmore administration) knows if you want to prove something with numbers, there's an obscure survey somewhere that will do the trick nicely. For me that survey was just a fun excuse to tweak Microsoft and IE fans in particular, nothing more.

[ Cringely got his comeuppance from IE users and other readers on the bogus survey. Did he take it like a man? Decide for yourself. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]

Of course, I got several hectares' worth of manure dumped on me from angry IE users when it turned out the AptiQuant survey was complete fiction -- a hoax perpetrated by its creator as a way to draw attention to himself and his products. It apparently didn't work; AptiQuant and Tarandeep Gill's other site, AtCheap, have disappeared from the InterWebs.

(For the record, I prefer to eat my crow pan-fried with a red whiiiiiine reduction.)

With that in mind, let me just say, here we go again.

The story starts with Patrick Min, a U.K.-based IT consultant who runs a site called Calcudoku, featuring addictive puzzle games that combine Sudoku with third-grade arithmetic and college-level logic. (I'm really sorry I discovered this site because now I'll never get anything done ever again.)

Min looked at more than 1.1 million games played on his site over the last two years, which gamers completed puzzles and how quickly they did it, as well as what browsers they happened to be using. Then he wrote a statistical research paper about it [PDF].

Yes, you guessed it. People who played Calcudoku using Chrome completed more puzzles and did them faster. Firefox users were slightly less proficient, though a bit better at the larger and more complex puzzles. And Internet Explorer users? Well, maybe math just isn't their subject.

IE users took almost 40 percent longer than Chromeheads to complete the simplest puzzles; roughly twice as many IE players abandoned the simplest puzzles without completing them. The numbers get closer as the puzzles get harder, but the pattern still holds.

For the record: I've been in touch with Patrick Min, who assures me this is not a hoax. His site has been up for about three years in one form or another, and he provides a lot more data and statistical documentation than Gill did for his bogus survey.

The reasons for these results? You tell me. Maybe the sample size was too small. Maybe IE users are more likely to abandon puzzles because they're busy people with important jobs, versus those Chrome slackers who can spend all day playing games and tweeting about their cats. Maybe it was IE itself and not the people using it that proved too slow for Calcudoku.

All the same, this post does not constitute an endorsement of Min's results. I'm not saying IE users couldn't spell "cat" if you spotted them the "c" and the "t," or that they couldn't locate their own buttocks with both hands and a GPS unit. I'm not at all implying that when it comes to intellectual cutlery IE users are duller than spoons, or that they like to pal around with half-wits so that they can have someone to look up to.

I'm not going there. As far as I'm concerned, IE users (especially those who continue to read this blog despite my many swipes at Microsoft) are la creme de la creme. If you have a bone to pick with this survey, pick it with Min -- not me.

So have at it, Cringesters: Why do IE users appear to do worse at math puzzles? Posit your theories below or email me:

This article, "Internet Explorer users: Don't call them dumb," was originally published at 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.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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