After a round of interviews earlier this year, which included some practical questions with access to a computer, I noticed that, at least for the applicants we were seeing, there was a high inverse correlation between quality of applicant and the explicit choice of Bing/IE as the stack for search/browsing the web. That is, a large number of applicants specifically searched for IE to use as a browser when browsing the web, and specifically used Bing as the search engine (even typing in Bing in the Google search box, before starting a search)

Is this just an outlier, a fluke, or is there some sort of information I can obtain from this observation? So far, my best candidates are:

  • Yes, there is a high correlation between good programmers and choice of web browser/search engine
  • There is some training program, or community, which advises using IE/Bing during interviews, and I just happened to run into a poor selection from that group
  • Something else is going on, that I don't know about, but someone here might know.

So, to repeat, the question is: is there more than coincidence at work here, and, if there is, what's going on?

  • The title is awkward, I'll welcome any advice or edits to improve it Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 14:36
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    People who use computers more are more likely to have encountered more than just the default browser, and therefore less likely to settle on IE as their favourite.
    – Armand
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 14:38
  • @Alison: maybe you could post this as an answer? Especially as it is a good answer. Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 14:56
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    Maybe you caught them on an IE day... I switched from ie 6, to firefox, to ie 7, to opera (9?), to ie 7, to chrome, to ie 8, to chrome. I'll probably try ie 9 next. Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 16:40
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    if it was in an interview context I wouldn't loose any time searching for another browser than the first one i could pick (of course if all major browser were available i would'nt choose IE) however I would use google over bing even if the default page would have been set to bing. If i was told I have some time to setup myself before it would be a different story.
    – Rémi
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 11:43

9 Answers 9


Theorhetically there should be about as much correlation as a person's blood type and their temperament as a person. The blood type theory is pretty common in many Asian countries, to the point where that information is in the bio for important people. It's the same type of unrelated association that brought that theory into being.

You will probably see a higher incidence of IE/Bing usage among .NET developers, particularly if they've gone through any type of training. Microsoft is very good at promoting its own products through every channel it can. I used to believe there was an inverse proportion to a programmer's quality and the number of certificates they had, but I met a few certified Sun, Microsoft, etc. developers who were really good. It's luck of the draw there.

There may be some psychological effects going on here as well. People who are content with the status quo will accept anything that is set before them the first time as normal. They will feel strange and out of place by attempting anything that is not the default behavior, which would explain people actively seeking out IE and Bing--consequently leading to your observation. It's this type of person that will not be a good programmer. They won't be able to think in ways that will improve long standing problems. The same type of person might instinctively reach for Apple Safari if they grew up on a Mac.

However, once you get outside the defaults, there are a miriad of reasons why people choose the browsers they do. For example, for day to day browsing I choose Google Chrome due to its good security record and its very fast response. However, for web development I choose Firefox because the dev plugins on that browser are most mature and helpful. I'll check in IE and Chrome to ensure I'm not missing anything (covering the three most common rendering systems [Chrome and Safari share the same rendering library]). These days, the story is getting better on both Chrome and IE 8 and up--but still not as good as Firefox.

I think the most useful course of action would be to ask the person why they chose the browser/search engine they did. If the answer is along the lines of "I've always used it" or "I don't know", there is a possibility that they might be the status quo kind of person. Further questions will weed that out. If they give you a reasonable explanation, it shows they are thinking about the choice.

Who knows, maybe there is some benefit to the IE/Bing combination we aren't aware of. I personally doubt it, but there just may be.

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    +1 - I see absolutely no correlation as well.
    – user7146
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 17:46
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    +1 for "Ask the person" - such an obvious course of action and removes speculation like this.
    – ChrisAnnODell
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 20:11

People who use computers more are more likely to have encountered more than just the default browser, and therefore less likely to settle on IE as their favourite.

Bear in mind as JoshL says below in the comments:

you can't infer from this relationship that anyone with IE is a sucky programmer

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    This is true, though it's worth noting that this relationship is one-way. What I mean by that you can't infer from this relationship that anyone with IE is a sucky programmer. There are plenty of good programmers who choose IE for a variety of reasons.
    – JohnL
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 15:05
  • No, you wouldn't be choosing IE willingly for your private browsing.
    – user8685
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 15:18
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    @Developer Art - No, you wouldn't choose IE willingly for your private browsing. Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 15:53
  • @JoshL I'll add this to the answer :)
    – Armand
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 16:08
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    @Alison: yep it can be extended to lots of different categories, unrelated to browsers. For example, you could make the same claim about MSOffice, since programmers are more likely to know about OpenOffice and other options than non-techies. @Developer Art: I said that lots of good programmers choose IE for different reasons. The fact that you don't know what those reasons are doesn't make this point any less valid. An example would be being able to use extensions that aren't available other browsers.
    – JohnL
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 16:38

You're trying to make an argument of the form:

p -> q

q therefore p


if 'they were bad programmers' (p) then 'they used IE' (q)

someone uses IE (q) therefore they are a bad programmer (p)

This is affirming the consequent. It's a logical fallacy, and it's a ridiculous proposal in the first place. You are not your browser. There's nothing to be obtained from this observation other than the fact that you had a bunch of bad candidates and have to better your phone screen process.

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    You're fighting a strawman. If you want to properly represent what I said above, then you'd replace with the second line with: q -> what can I learn about p? Maybe someone will provide an answer saying "Here's some research saying q->p", maybe not - if it looks to you that I am making that claim, though, I've done a poor job of describing the question - please recommend an improvement to make it clear this is not what I meant. Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 0:17
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    @blueberryfields: I don't mean to pick a fight. With all the work that good developers put into improving our knowledge and skills in such a complex profession, it seems that trying to peg or draw conclusions about us based on this kind of criteria demeans all of that work. That might be where my tone came from, and I apologize for it being confrontational. Commented Dec 18, 2010 at 8:36

I think there are a lot of potential confounding variables here:

1) Using Bing over Google could be seen as a good thing. The general suggestion is that IE is bad because it means that the person has failed to make a choice, but the same is surely true of Google, more a defacto standard for search than IE is for browsing these days. Someone using Bing has likely made a concious choice which suggests the sort of experimenting / assessing which is generally regarded as positive.

2) An increasing number of companies (we are one) mandate non-IE browsers by default for security reasons. In this instance the logic reverses and using IE becomes the choice rather than Firefox.

3) If a developer spends a lot of time developing to target a certain browser then I'd see it as a good thing that they use that browser by default.

4) I suspect there is a certain anti-MS bias generally which looks down on IE and Bing which, once you'd noted this once may have lead to confirmation bias. This needs to be excluded.

5) Was the computer set up in such a way that IE was easier to find? In the toolbar or on the desktop? It maybe the thinking was less about which browser, how do I find the net as fast as possible?

And on top of that you'd have to find some workable metric for assessing programmers as good or bad...

It's a mildly interesting idle observation but I wouldn't put any stock in it and I think firming it up would be far more effort than was warranted.

For what it's worth my gut feel is that search engine choice would be irrelevant (point 1 and point 4 above being significant for me), browser choice would show a weak inverse correlation between IE users and ability but nothing strong enough to usefully use.


I'm surprised there's hasn't been an avalanche of replies of web developers, to the effect of: "When we develop web pages, half the effects don't work in various versions of IE, especially the older ones without adding various tricks and hacks. The other browsers - Firefox, Opera, Chrome, etc have been much better about adhering to and supporting the standards. So a serious web developer pretty quickly gets tired of IE and looks on it unfavorably. IE has been getting better in this area, but still wants to be different for the sake of product differentiation.
Still, IE is now something like 1/4 or 1/3 of the browser market. Long gone the days of 98.1% of users."

As for bing, sheesh I remember when folks were using "ask Jeeves" in 2002 and I was running around saying "Google is THE answer". If only I'd bought stock ;) go LNKD ;) ;)


It is a strange, but a very interesting question indeed.

I believe there should be a correlation.

Good programmers strive for efficiency and quality. IE/Bing cannot provide those compared to Firefox/Google. If people don't care about those very basic things, tools in their work, chances are they won't care about their work or anything at all. And it is a known quality of a good programmer that he cares and has an own opinion of the things.

It is also possible that those programmers weren't web programmers. But even so, there should have seen "the Internet" in their practice since it's become a primary source of the information and knowledge. And then, they couldn't have missed Google and Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome.

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    I use Chrome, but I woukd pick IE over Firefox any day. I can't stand the memory leaks. It's also entirely possible that Bing returns better results for a particular person's queries than Google does. We don't all think alike and value the same things to the same degree. Poor answer. Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 18:17

Correlation, maybe. But you have to dig still.

What if the candidate worked for the past 6 years at two different jobs. Both of which locked down the environment and provided only IE as the available browser?

Of course, you will get used to it and start to prefer it.

But personally, there are a few things that will start to drop you to a thumbs down in my book. The tools you use certainly indicate your experience as well as the lack of use of tools. If you haven't tried and have an opinion on every free IDE (as one example) out there, then hit the road.

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    EVERY free IDE? You should fire yourself for either wasting so much of your time or for not following your own ridiculous rule. Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 18:18
  • To be honest, I don't have time to try every single free IDE out there, or hunt down the really obscure ones I'll probably never use anyway. Would you also say they should try every version of every free IDE? Besides, I tend to try stuff I expect to be interesting to me.
    – JohnL
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 18:34
  • That's just one example. Specifically, If you haven't tried Eclipse, NetBeans and IntelliJ, then do you really think you are working as efficiently as you can be?
    – Mike
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 19:02
  • some folks seek out the best practices folks and then follow their practices in tools. Myself I had to go the ecipse -> netbeans -> RubyMine route to find the best rails IDE. For other rails stuff I try to learn from the best. Commented Mar 9, 2012 at 5:36

It's a matter of availability.

If you don't care about computers, you're going to go to a store that sells computers and buy a Windows box. Once you've got it, you'll use IE because it's there (when I boot into W7 on my laptop, IE has a favored position on the task bar even though I rarely use it), and Bing because it's what IE uses by default. Also, you're not going to be interested in alternative ways to do things, and will try to use what you're used to.

If you do care about your computing environment, you will get a computer with your favored OS. You will experiment with browsers until you find what you like, and the same with search engines. There's no guarantee that you won't decide you like Windows, IE, and Bing, but the chance is much higher that you'll use Mac or Linux, Firefox or Safari or Opera or Chrome, or Google.

When looking for a programmer, you generally want one who likes computers and is willing to try new things. You also are likely to interview people who you really wouldn't spend time on if you knew them better, but that's what the interview's for. They will want to use IE and Bing disproportionately.

It's also possible that good programmers prefer the alternatives to IE and Bing in general, but that's not necessary to explain your observations.


I suppose I can put up my own experience and let others infer the relationship. I like to think I'm a good developer. And here are the browsers installed on my system:

  • IE 9 Beta (32 and 64 bit)
  • Chrome Dev. 9.0
  • Firefox Minefield 4.08pre (64 bit)
  • Firefox 3.6.13 (32 bit)
  • Opera 10.63
  • Safari 5.03

This is because I care about web standards and want my development to look good and work proper on as many platforms as I can muster. All being told, Chrome is my current browsing favorite due to its top-shelf performance on JavaScript-heavy sites and decent library of add-ons now.

Oh, edited to add: I will set my default search engine to Google in every case.

  • Totally agree on the google! However IE 9 without 6 (maybe) and 7 and 8? How (could) you skip all the other versions in 2010 and be trying to reach as many platforms as practical? Not that I'm an IE fan mind you... (Opera works for me, call myself one of the 2%'ers) Commented Mar 9, 2012 at 5:40
  • Like I said, I care about web standards. IE 6 is not only wildly noncompliant, but a security threat magnet. 7 is mostly lipstick on a pig and 8 is not half bad :) Commented Mar 9, 2012 at 13:28

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