The Internet wouldn't be any fun without the ever-present rumor mill.
It's especially prolific on tech news sites, where the only thing better than finding out about the next great thingamajig is being the first Web site to tell everyone about it.
Rumors get started in forums and on dubious Web sites, sometimes even correctly and clearly stated as rumors, and then the telephone game begins.
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As they are printed and reprinted in the cheap 1s and 0s of dozens of blogs and news sites, the story takes on a life on its own and the rumor becomes fact.
Readers of this site should know that you just can't trust most Internet rumors.
Certainly, they're right from time to time. The PlayStation Home thing was broken before the official unveiling, and word of the iPhone was pretty solid before the curtain was lifted (though the rumors were all over the map as to the iPhone's features and design).
While it's safe to make a blanket "don't trust Internet rumors" statement, sometimes news stories don't appear as rumors when they really are.
Here are five "news stories" you should take with a huge grain of salt every time they pop up:
1. CPU Price Drops: Yes, CPU prices drop regularly, and within a few days of said price drop you will often find a list of the new prices online. The sales-channel infrastructure is too big to keep it a secret.
But when you see a list of what the CPU prices from AMD or Intel are going to be in a couple months, don't trust it. Future pricing is in flux continually, and even if the list is accurate (it's usually not), the actual prices are likely to be different by the time the changes hit the market.
2. New Apple Products: Apple is famous for its secrecy, a fact that makes juicy news about the next nifty product only that much more appealing. Unfortunately, it's flat-out wrong about 95 percent of the time.
I think the rumor sites were "positive" about the release of a fancy new touch-screen video iPod to be announced at the last several Apple conferences. It still hasn't materialized. There hasn't even been an update to the hard-drive based iPods at all.
According to the rumor mills, new eMacs and iMacs were supposed to be released recently, too. And Leopard should be on shelves today.
Apple has been known to play the rumor mill, leaking out false information to misdirect people. Just wait for the real announcements.
Besides, these days it looks like you won't be able to buy whatever hot new Apple product is unveiled until weeks or months after Steve Jobs takes the stage and says "Oh, and one last thing..."
3. New Graphics-Card Details: Everyone wants to know what the next big GPU architecture from ATI or Nvidia is going to be like. We heard all about the G80 (GeForce 8800) architecture weeks and months before its release.
Unfortunately, it was all wrong. The rumor mill painted the chip as having separate vertex and pixel-shader units instead of a unified architecture, and had the number and speed of the ALUs all wrong.
GPU makers are getting smart enough to purposefully misdirect the rumormongers, and they are tweaking and adjusting the shipping clock speeds and prices all the way up to just before launch.
As a fun exercise, look at the rumored "accurate" specs of ATI's R600 over the last year, and the G80 rumors for about six months before its launch last November. The architectural details and clock speeds change every few weeks.
4. The Beatles Online: I think, over the last two years, I have read about a dozen times that the Beatles catalog was going to finally be available on iTunes and other online music stores. And yet still, the only way to get "The White Album" is to go to a record store. Believe it when you see it.
I sure have, about dozen times over the last year. Blizzard has even flat-out denied a console port, and yet this rumor keeps cropping up.
Similar "Gee, I love this game and I wish it was on this other system" rumors creep up constantly. "Metal Gear Solid 4" for Xbox 360, "Dead Rising" on PlayStation 3, "Halo" on Nintendo DS — the list of these rumors goes on and on.
Some of them might even have a grain of truth to them, in that the publishers might be in negotiations at the time the rumor hits.
Honestly, many of these negotiations don't go anywhere, and sometimes the publishers just flat-out reconsider. Sometimes leaked information kills the deal.
And of course, much of the time it just didn't have a grain of truth to begin with.
Playing "what if" and speculating about future products is part of what makes the 'net fun, but it tends to get out of hand. Generally a rumor is only as reliable as the site it was originally sourced from.
If you track the source of info back to a small site you never heard of, odds are it's not good info. Just relax, be patient while you wait for official confirmation, and when something seems like the world's biggest scoop, read the article carefully and pay close attention to the source.
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