How the hoax started and propagated.

Ok, now that the hoax is totally uncovered, let me go back and try to sum up everything that happened over the last week.

But first, I would like to stress a few points:

  1. There was no intention to insult anyone. I regret the use of word “dumb” in my press release, but it was kind of important to get media attention.
  2. This was not a cheap publicity stunt, but an honest effort to create awareness about the incompatibilities of IE versions 6.0 to 8.0. I have had made futile efforts in this regard earlier too (see www.beastoftheweb.com)
  3. I would be happy if even a 100 people stopped using IE 6.0 after this whole episode :)

A little about me: My name is Tarandeep Gill. I am a computer programmer/web developer/entrepreneur [Update: I am based in Vancouver, British Columbia and not in San Francisco as some media outlets reported today] . I graduated with a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Georgia Tech. I worked briefly before quitting my job to work on my startup www.AtCheap.com, which is a comparison shopping website. I take 100% responsibility for this hoax.

About the hoax: While adding some exciting new features to my website, it was getting more and more difficult to support IE version 6.0 to 8.0. Particularly IE 6.0. There is no doubt about IE’s lack of compatibility with web standards (not IE 9.0 though). I am sure every web-developer in the world would agree with me over this, and I am sure every web-developer has at least once in their lifetime felt that how much better the world would be, if there was no IE. I would like to congratulate Micro$oft for making IE 9.0 so compatible, but this whole hoax thing was targeted at IE 6.0 to 8.0

Anyways, I have been recently reading about Memetics. I am a big fan of Dr. Richard Dawkins and theory of evolution of life, and it was really amazing to see the same theory being applied to “ideas” or “memes.” According to the theory of Memetics, ‘survival of the fittest’ theory applies to ideas as well. Strong ideas survive, multiply and evolve over time, whereas weak ones die.

So, frustrated with IE (and the fact that you can not have all the 4 versions on one computer to test your website), I went on to create a meme that would result in some awareness and hopefully convince a few IE users to stop using it. As Christopher Budd sums it all up in this post, 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. Although the resulting website wasn’t that authentic looking, but it did the job.

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 I really hope at least a few people stopped using IE 6.0 to 8.0 after this whole episode.