His name is Tarandeep Gill. He’s a web developer and entrepreneur, a graduate of the Georgia Tech computer science program, and a resident of Vancouver, B.C.
For nearly a week he managed to fool the world — or at least the world’s media — into thinking that Internet Explorer users are dramatically less intelligent than users of other web browsers are.
But he didn’t do it to drum up publicity for his startup. He did it to get people to dump older versions of Microsoft’s browser. And he wasn’t sponsored by another browser vendor.
At least that’s what he says in this post explaining his hoax. But really, who knows what to believe anymore when it comes to this whole thing?
At any rate, according to Gill’s post, the stunt was his latest effort to educate the world about the evils of Internet Explorer, particularly older versions. His previous campaign, protesting the Internet Explorer 9 launch, didn’t get much attention. So when he became frustrated trying to tweak his site for IE 6 through 8, he decided to start an Internet meme to see if he could bring some attention to the issue.
He writes …
… I wanted my “report” to have an authority. So I used some scientific language and style. I am myself a researcher and have done some research in Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence, though I have never had a paper published. However, psychology not being my area of expertise, I did some research on it to make my report look official. Then I had to create a website to make my report look real. The only dreaded mistake I made was copying the content from Central Test’s website and not even bothering to change/delete the pictures of the staff. I changed their names to made-up names though.
The next step was the press release. I hoped to get some coverage, but with all the signs that I have mentioned in this post, I was hoping to be uncovered pretty soon. But, I guess what I said was exactly what people wanted to hear. The “meme” spread so fast, it was becoming virtually impossible for me to track all the news sites/blogs that were covering my story. So, in the end I just went off to relax for the long weekend, and by the time I was back, people have started to uncover the hoax.
In the end, I would once again like to apologize to IE users who felt insulted, and to Central Test for copying their stuff without permission. And I really hope at least a few people stopped using IE 6.0 to 8.0 after this whole episode.
In talking with people at Microsoft about the episode, there’s definitely a feeling that the enthusiasm with which the media jumped on the story reflects an inherent (and misguided) bias against the company, and the type of customers its products attract.
I’m sure there’s an element of that — perhaps it’s the tech world’s equivalent of classism — but I also think it also reflects the competitive nature of tech blogging and journalism, and the tendency to jump on stories quickly, at times without vetting them enough.
In the end, this whole episode is a cautionary tale for all of us, and a good reminder not to believe everything we read.