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Doing the Microsoft Shuffle: Algorithm Fail in Browser Ballot

Mar 01, 2010, 23:02 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Rob Weir)

"But this wasn’t a simple case of Internet Explorer showing up more in the first position. The non-randomness was pronounced, but more complicated. For example, Chrome was more likely to show up in one of the first 3 positions. And Internet Explorer showed up 50% of the time in the last position. This has lead to various theories, made on the likely mistaken theory that this is an intentional non-randomness. Does Microsoft have secret research showing that the 5th position is actually chosen more often? Is the Internet Explorer random number generator not random? There were also comments asserting that the tests proved nothing, and the results were just chance, and others saying that the results are expected to be non-random because computers can only make pseudo-random numbers, not genuinely random numbers.

"Maybe there was cogent technical analysis of this issue posted someplace, but if there was, I could not find it. So I’m providing my own analysis here, a little statistics and a little algorithms 101. I’ll tell you what went wrong, and how Microsoft can fix it. In the end it is a rookie mistake in the code, but it is an interesting mistake that we can learn from, so I’ll examine it in some depth."

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