Hundreds of media outlets around the world--including Seattle Weekly, the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and Forbes--reported last week on a study that found people who use Internet Explorer have lower IQs than users of other browsers.
Apparently we were the fools.
Canadian web developer Tarandeep Gill has admitted that the study was an elaborate hoax. The BBC and other media outlets reported that he went to the trouble of creating a fake website and a fake study, complete with phony bios for the company's fake founders, in order to generate publicity for AtCheap.com, his discount retail site.
In order to make everything look legitimate, Gill says that he ripped off staff photos from the website of a French research company called Central Test, then used his own background as a researcher to craft a credible-looking study by a made-up company called AptiQuant. (To take a look at Gill's very convincing study, go here.)
Not content with having pulled a fast one on the world's press, Gill's admission also included some media criticism. He said there were several red flags that should have tipped off journalists to the hoax, among them that the domain name for AptiQuant wasn't registered until July 14.
When we e-mailed "Leonard Howard," the alleged founder of AptiQuant, last Friday, "Howard" explained why his company had done the study.
"We were just trying to add some features to our website, and found IE 6.0 and 7.0 to be extremely difficult to work with," he said.
Apparently that part was true. While "Howard," who we now have to presume was Gill, didn't really have evidence that Internet Explorer users were dumber than others, he now says he really did want to highlight problems with the browser, writing that he hopes "at least a few people stopped using IE 6.0 to 8.0 after this whole episode."