In a move that shouldn’t really have surprised anyone, internet firm AptiQuant today went on record telling people that they shouldn’t take their Internet Browser IQ study seriously. Hey, I coulda told you that(oh wait…I did tell you that). The reason, though…the reason they aren’t to be taken seriously might actually surprise you. Turns out..the study was false. The whole thing was a hoax.
An elaborate, ultimately pointless hoax that even managed to fool such publications as CNN, the BBC, NPR, CNET andForbes. I’m not really sure what they were trying to accomplish- this whole fiasco might end with them getting sued-both by a bunch of pissed off IE users(though given that AptiQuant themselves reported that, I’d dispute the legitimacy), and from the actual, legitimate firm from which they *ahem* “borrowed” a rather significant portion of their fake identity.
Before we continue, I’ll give you folks an idea of just how elaborate this hoax actually was. Turns out, it wasn’t just the test that was fabricated- there was never a company called AptiQuant to begin with. The website was created on July 14, 2011, the Vancouver address listed as the firms head office doesn’t actually exist, AptiQuant’s previous press releases and studies were all lifted from another website-including staff photos and biographies.
I don’t think they really thought that last part through.
The whole thing was blown out of the water by a few astute readers of the BBC, who on Wednesday questioned why AptiQuant’s website was created just last month- even though the firm claimed to have been around since 2006. Sure enough, a bit of digging determined that most of the information on AptiQuant’s fake website was lifted from the French Web development firm known as Central Test. That’s not to say the folks behind the hoax didn’t have an actual, valid website. Those looking into Aptiquant found out that they most certainly did.
The domain name is Atcheap.com. It’s a comparison shopping website.
So…why’d they do it?
…Apparently, it was all a joke. According to AptiQuant, ”this was all meant to be a lighthearted joke. We did not mean to insult anyone, but if we have hurt anybody’s feelings, we apologize for that. But what’s really funny is that everybody took the report so seriously.”Uh huh. You know, I never thought I’d actually get to say something like this over the course of my blogging career, but…I smell a troll.
Oh, there were a few lines about spreading awareness regarding IE6′s compatibility issues. Somehow, I get the feeling that wasn’t really their prime focus, though.
While spending about four paragraphs repeating over and over that they didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, they also took the time to gloat a bit that people should have uncovered the hoax “in five minutes.” And really…I actually can’t argue with them there. The signs were all there…but apparently, nobody noticed them.
So, yeah. Those of you who thought that there might be some sinister motive behind this whole thing, those of you who were about to call AtCheap out for an underhanded viral marketing campaign…I assure you, their motives weren’t anywhere near that complex. From where I stand, it honestly looks like this study was pretty much just designed to mess with people- a goal which they accomplished rather adeptly.
Trouble is, they could very well have caused some very real damage to their own business.
No word on whether or not there are actually IE users suing AptiQuant/AtCheap. If there are, well…good for them, I guess? Suing Atcheap isn’t really going to accomplish all that much, at this point- not that it would have in the first place. Far more real is a lawsuit on behalf of Central Test.
“Central Test noticed the fraudulent use of its identity by Aptiquant, a Canadian company and deny any direct or indirect link with the above mentioned company,” the firm said in a blog post. “Despite the removal of the contents, Central Test and ongoing investigations reserves the right to sue the webmaster Aptiquant.”
Maybe having the ‘lighthearted joke’ involve borderline identity theft took things a bit too far. Seems to me we’ve got a clear example of not thinking things through.
Truthfully, I never really looked into whether AptiQuant was actually a legitimate firm or not because..I honestly never took the study all that seriously to begin with. It was an amusing little story poking fun at some of the folks who still insist on using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Plus, there was the whole internet IQ test thing. Ah, well. Guess we should take this as a learning experience, eh? Don’t believe everything you read.
Or something to that effect.