Retraction: On August 3, the BBC reported that the company and its purported study are an apparent hoax. We regret the error.
Original story: Web users are constantly judged by how they use the Internet. Embarrassing Facebook photos (no, I don't want to see you do a keg stand), inane tweets (I don't care what you ate today), and archaic email (Aunt Millie, please get rid of your AOL account) can all be sources of silent disapproval or open ridicule from those we interact with on the Internet. And now there's another: what your web browser says about IQ. Vancouver-based AptiQuant's research was elegantly straightforward: it posted an IQ test on its website and looked at the IQ score and web browser of 101,326 people who completed the test.
Though the study isn't up to scientific standards and IQ is hardly a perfect measure of intelligence (especially on Internet quizes), the results are too juicy not to pick apart. Users of all versions of Internet Explorer (except for those who install Google Chrome Frame, which is a plug-in that turns IE into Chrome) have the lowest IQs of any web users, all falling below 100, the average IQ for the general population. Notably, though, the average IQ score for Internet Explorer users have fallen some 20 points in the five years since AptQuant first did this study. Back then, Microsoft's browser had over 60 percent browser share. Today, it's less than 25 percent, suggesting that the smartest browsers on the web have fled to alternatives.
The smartest are users of geeky niche favorites like Opera (who averaged at 126.5) and Camino, a Mac-native version of the Mozilla engine that runs Firefox (124.4). The more widely used browsers fell into the middle of the pack: Safari (113.5), Chrome (111.2), and Firefox (108.7).
"We were not really surprised by the results," says AptiQuant founder Leonard Howard. He chalks up the intelligence discrepancy to the ubiquity of computers that come with Internet Explorer pre-installed and "the reluctance of people with lower IQ to experiment with newer things." Smart people are more likely to try using shiny new web browsers, goes the hypothesis, just like they're more likely to experiment with drugs.