Just browsing, or, seek not geek

A few weeks back, “Scott from Google” asked 50 people in Times Square, “What’s a browser?”

Boy, aren’t people dumb?

I don’t think Scott from Google thought that, despite the end-line telling you that less than 8% of people interviewed knew what a browser was.

If you listen again, though, notice how they see the term “browser.”

  • A website you can search
  • A search engine
  • It’s where I search through the find things
  • I use the Yahoo!
  • The internet is where you find anything
  • A way to get on

In other words, for the people in the video, the computer and its software are a means, not an end.  The car owners in this group most likely couldn’t tell you if their vehicle has an alternator, or even the number of cylinders, but they can probably use the car to get from home to work.

(Hey, Scott–what’s a gerund, and which pronoun case do you use with one?)

A trade paperback?  Isn't that when you share one with a friend?It might help someone in certain circumstances to be able to describe a browser and distinguish it from a search engine.  For the people in the video, that seems a low-priority task.

If Scott had had a couple of computers on a table, with  half a dozen browsers, and asked people, “Can you  find the price of Google stock?” (or  download a video from YouTube, or tell him who’s the president of France), I’m guessing the majority could–if the task related to the kinds of things the people normally do on computers.

What annoys me is not the video itself, but the overall mockery in the YouTube comments.  It’s easy for those in the know, detail-wise, to decide that others ought to know those same things.

Just think how much richer your life would be if you had known the DOS FDISK command.  (If you have no idea what that is, hardly anyone else did, either.)

It’s really a cautionary tale for how people do things, and how they learn.  Look at the whole task and at the context.  If you’re going to be tweaking lots of software, then, yes, you probably do want to know what a browser is; you may even, like at least one person in the clip, use more than one.

On the other hand, my 90-year-old mother accesses two or three blogs, does some cautious shopping, and even checks her bank and credit card balances online.  She has no idea what browser she uses.  She’d think the word meant someone who says to the store clerk, “Thanks, but I’m just looking.”

Which, come to think of it, is what she does online.

CC-licensed browser image by shanta.