just to make sure we’re all on the same page here

“A team from Google interviewed dozens of people in Times Square the other day, asking a simple question: What’s a browser? This was in an effort to understand and improve the customer experience of Google’s own browser, called Chrome.

Turns out that over 90% of the people interviewed could not describe what a Web browser is.”

Don’t believe me? Watch the video. Granted, this comes from Google, but while we’re all being “blah blah Firefox, etc” there are many people who just see what happens when you “click the e” and go forward from there.

11 thoughts on “just to make sure we’re all on the same page here

  1. I saw the video and it made me do a gut-check.

    But the more I thought about it, the more got to thinking that 8% has got to be a bogus number. If Firefox has a 22% market share then more than 8% of the general population knows enough about web browsers to download the program and use it instead of Internet Explorer. Right?

    The larger point that I believe the video was trying to make was that the web experience is the same as the search engine experience. And now Google Chrome, of which the video is actually about, now makes a lot more sense to me.

  2. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to use it, just that they had trouble describing it. And, to tell the truth, if some stranger on the street stuck a microphone in my face & asked me a question like that I might not do so well in answering it either. And I consider myself fairly computer savy. Doing something and talking about it coherently aren’t always the same thing.

  3. My mother uses firefox and she wouldn’t be able to tell you what a browser is – just that firefox is less annoying than IE.

    Then you’ve got my coworkers who call firefox ‘motzilla’…

  4. The 8% number strikes me as too low (as Mita said), but having not done something similar myself it is hard to evaluate. I wonder if a similar survey would have the same results with a higher education audience.

  5. That sounds right to me. I often ask students if they have a web based email and get blank stares until I start listing off options and hit on the one they use. I especially relate to that “click the e” sentiment. My mom emailed me regularly my first year of undergrad and stopped suddenly one day because my dad had moved the icon on the desktop. Not deleted it, just moved it, but that was all it took. My mom has 2 PhDs (psychology and anthropology) and uses voice recognition software on a daily basis, but she definitely has no concept of what a web browser is, or that you can minimize software without closing it, or have more than one thing running at a time. I really like these reminders that pull me out of my bleeding edge bubble. Thanks!

  6. what ellie says; with the caveat that some do ‘know what a browser is’, and to a large extent even what it does; and just don’t know that it’s *called* a browser. and did the interviewer give any context at all? (can’t view from work. will when at home.)

    funny thing, our intertubes. it seems like they reveal a lot of ignorance that we-all as a society used to be, well, ignorant of.

  7. There was a longstanding misunderstanding in my childhood home that a computer had a monitor, a keyboard and a modem. My first computer in college was a Mac Plus, with the monitor integrated with the CPU and the modem external. Later computers I owned had separate monitors but internal modems. But according to the formula, the thing that was not a monitor and not a keyboard must be the modem.

    There is plenty in the library literature about people not understanding that computers are not necessarily connected to the internet. The vast majority of people drive their cars every day without worrying about what the road is made of, etcetera.

    But this video is absolute crap. They are clear that their survey includes only “people we interviewed on this day” (and which day is that, Scott from Google?), which would be a convenience sample, and the results can’t really be applied to any population at large. The presentation of the results suggests they are trying to ridicule the informants, and that alone makes me think, crap, crap, crap.

    Some more interesting questions to me:

    First, should people know the difference between a search engine and a browser? I’m all for education and empowering people through how-stuff-works, but requiring technical knowledge can be a barrier to access, and as a librarian, the access matters most.

    Second, should libraries include internet search engines in their federated search tools and try to get people to use “The library” as “their browser”?

  8. I don’t think most people think about it, or necessarily should.

    It’s almost like asking people about the service that delivers their newspaper. Does it come by truck? By plane? Where is it printed. We only really care if the information gets to us, we only really pay attention if it doesn’t.

  9. I’ve been thinking a lot about this video, and I think it still has a strong message, but it’s really more about culture than knowledge. What’s shocking is how hard the edge and how small the dimensions of our culture where our = our tightly knit but widely diverse internet culture that seems so ubiquitous when we spend so much time soaking in it. I’d imagine you’d get a very similar accuracy rate if you asked “What’s a spanner?” It’s an uncommon, misleading name for something that everybody knows and has used, from a foreign culture. I also think they’d have gotten many more flashes of recognition and less “why is this person trying to stump me, what I think I understand must be wrong” if they had asked “What’s a WEB browser?” It’s kinda unfair and it feels a little like those horrid “dumb people on the street” segments that Leno and such would do.

    That said, because there are so many different kinds of people doing so many different kinds of things in our culture, it’s easy to lose sight of the line between cultural knowledge and near-universal knowledge, especially when our geekly cultural knowledge has broken out and left little untouched…. I know I had an almost physical reaction watching this video and seeing that edge snap suddenly into focus. I’m inspired to do more usability testing. =)

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