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"URL" Stands for...? New Pew Report Has Surprising Stats on America's Tech Knowledge.

Bill Gates is well-known, but only 21 percent of American tech consumers recognize Sheryl Sandberg: The surprising results of Pew's survey on Americans' knowledge of technology.

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Are you all too familiar with the concept of “leaning in,” but unable to pick Sheryl Sandberg out of a crowd? Vaguely aware that “Moore’s law” refers to rapidly-evolving technology, but drawing a blank on who Mr. Moore is or how transistors multiply?

You’re in the majority.

A new report out today from the Pew Research Center includes some interesting statistics about U.S. consumers’ knowledge of technology trends, topics and figures.

The Pew survey addressed 17 topics in total, a few of which are highlighted below. Let’s start with the lighter fare:

  • 83 percent of survey participants were able to identify Bill Gates from a photo, compared with just 21 percent of people who correctly IDed Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. (Although 10 percent also thought Bill Gates was Steve Jobs, so perhaps Sheryl shouldn’t be concerned, if she’s not already relishing her relative anonymity.)
  • 74 percent know that a megabyte is larger than a kilobyte.
  • 69 percent know that “URL” stands for Uniform Resource Locator (add that to your list of trivia questions).
  • 36 percent know that the first iPhone launched in 2007.
  • 34 percent know that Moore’s Law relates to how many transistors can be put on a microchip.
  • Just nine percent of Americans know that Mosaic was the first popular graphical web browser.

While those topics are certainly not inconsequential, the more surprising revelations are around subjects related to tech policies. For example, Pew says that 61 percent of Internet users “correctly identify the phrase ‘Net Neutrality’ as referring to equal treatment of digital content by internet service providers.”

Sixty-one percent! That’s a pretty unbelievable number, considering that just 23 percent of Americans know that the “Internet” and “World Wide Web” do not refer to the same thing. That’s not to discredit the average American consumer — I know tech reporters who still get tripped up by the notion of net neutrality (fortunately, our own Amy Schatz has written incredibly helpful explainers around the subject).

At the same time, fewer than half of consumers understand that just because a tech company has a privacy policy, doesn’t necessarily mean that their information is kept confidential by that company.

Age and education levels appear to be factors in some of the survey responses, but there are a few surprises there, as well. For example, 68 percent of adults over the age of 65 know that “hashtags” are primarily used on Twitter.

The Pew Research Center has conducted consumer knowledge surveys before, specifically around news, science and religion, but this is the first survey the center has done on technology and the Web. The survey was conducted over six days in September, among a sample of 1,066 adults who use the Internet or mobile devices at least occasionally.

The full report can be found here, along with a quiz for you to test your own Internet knowledge.

But hey, if you’re reading Re/code, you’ll surely ace it … amiright?

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