Expletives and Browsers / by Zach Mayer

I've been noticing a trend bubbling below the surface of the collective consciousness comprised of internet users of various stripes for a while now. To my perception, it appears that Internet Explorer has become much less reviled over time, and the generally high opinion of Chrome and Firefox has waned a bit in recent years. There are lots of reasons why that might or might not be the case, but I'm not interested in that at the moment. What I am interested in is "The Fuck Index" for the three most widespread web browsers.

If you don't know about the "The Fuck Index," Urban Dictionary does a decent job of explaining the concept thus:

The Fuck Index (TFI), also known as The Google Fuck Poll, is a DIY poll like the Gallup Poll, but available to "we the people". It best used for measuring the relative popularity of key politicians, past and present. It is tested by doing a "Fuck <enter name>" on a Google Search, and reading the totals.

It breaks down a bit outside of politics though. During a presidential campaign of a year or two, most people generate strong opinions and naturally seek an outlet for expressing them. Because people with strong opinions are often also lazy, that outlet is typically the path of least resistance, i.e., the Internet. The result is a lot of strong opinions can be expressed, cataloged, and counted within a relatively short time, giving you a reasonably informative statistic (as statistics go) for a time frame of a year or so. After a race the numbers stagnate and fewer people suddenly have such strong motivation to generate new data so it stops being representative of the current state of opinion.

And that's fine. It's only during a campaign where you're judging the hive-mind's disposition of current events that it's really relevant anyway. Just for grins, let's apply "The Fuck Index" to our targets:

Fuck Firefox

Fuck Firefox

Fuck Chrome

Fuck Chrome

Fuck Internet Explorer

Fuck Internet Explorer

Interesting numbers so far, if only because the expected worst offender has the lowest number. I want to point out that I didn't use "Fuck IE" or "Fuck FF" for my samples because both of those are incredibly polluted. You can check them out yourself to see how. "Fuck Chrome" is likely corrupt in the same way, since "Chrome" is a perfectly cromulent word in its own right, irrespective of its relevance to web browsers. It's also worth mentioning that these numbers mean next to nothing simply because they don't reflect a change in opinion over time; just the average aggregate indignation suffered by people contributing to the corpus of the internet for all time. It's a poll, and polls are usually meant to capture information about a relatively small point in time which is why long-running polls are typically discounted out of hand.

"The Fuck Index" is deliciously ambiguous, because it relies on the ephemeral meaning of "fuck" to generate its primary metric. That means there are at least two ways we can interpret a large number of "fucks" given for a given search term as either a positive or negative response to suit our whim.

For my purpose, I want to gauge the relative popularity of,  or frustration with, the most popular browsers, and people have been cursing all of them for a much longer time than your typical political campaign lasts. To that end, I turn to Google Trends.

Let's see how our terms stack up as queries over time:

Well that's neat! It appears that Chrome's Fuck Index is rising, while both Firefox and Internet Explorer's Fuck Indices are steadily falling. Also of note is that Internet Explorer's Fuck Index is historically significantly lower than the other two. Even changing the term to "Fuck IE doesn't show much difference:

Call it confirmation bias (I certainly do), but it appears to confirm my suspicion. Chrome's fuckery is increasing, Firefox's fuckery is decreasing, and Internet Explorer's fuckery is less than both the other two and reaching equilibrium.

As for why this may be the case, I attribute the relative popularity differences among the three browsers to account for some of the wider discrepancies. Chrome's Fuck Index may be rising because it's now handily the most popular browser on the web, while Internet Explorer is in the single digits of market share.

In around 2011-2012, when the lines for Firefox and Chrome cross, their market shares were about equal, but Chrome has steadily grown in popularity since then. That might account for the decline in Firefox's fuckery since then, but in 2008, when the first big spike in Internet Explorer's Fuck Index appears, both Internet Explorer and Firefox has nearly equal user-bases; so why the rather large gap between them then?

At the end of the day, none of these number really mean much, and may in fact share more of a correlation with market share rather than vitriol or software quality. My perception remains, however: Internet Explorer is leveling off in terms of overall fuckery, and may very soon start making headway in recovering market share from Chrome. Meanwhile, Google is moving into position as the next giant browser in need of a harsh reality check.

I leave you with this:

via Google Trends