Breaking url-bar search

William Pietri william at scissor.com
Mon Aug 19 15:42:24 UTC 2013


On 08/16/2013 11:14 AM, Gavin Sharp wrote:
> No worries, William, I appreciate that you've been willing to discuss
> this quite even-handedly. Being an open project, we often have to deal
> with much less productive feedback and questioning :)

I can only imagine.

> I don't think "no data" is fair. We had the heat map study that I 
> linked to previously, and telemetry data that indicates the percentage 
> of Telemetry users which had a modified keyword.URL preference. These 
> are "reliable numbers", hard data, and they informed our judgement. We 
> also have some hard data that hasn't been published yet, from FHR, 
> that suggests the vast majority of searches are performed with the 
> default search engine (this is in aggregate, not broken down per-user, 
> so we do not know e.g. how many users use one search engine in the 
> search bar and another in the location bar, which as I understand it 
> is what you mean by "the feature" in this post and others.). 
> Obviously, we should do a better job of publishing the data and our 
> conclusions derived from it, so you don't have to take my word on it. 
> We are working on that. 


Ok. Yes, sorry for being imprecise, I meant "no direct data on the use 
of this feature". Or, perhaps to be more neutral with respect to what's 
a feature, I should say "no direct data on how many users would perceive 
this as a breaking change".

>> So from that, it seems fair to say that the number of affected users is
>> thousands to millions, but tens of millions is out of bounds, yes?
> I don't think these back-of-the-envelope made up guesses are
> particularly useful or likely to be productive. I doubt very much that
> more than thousands of users are negatively impacted (and that's on
> the order of 0.002% of our user base, by conservative estimates).


Ok. That back-of-the-envelope calculation was my way of trying to 
reconcile your theory that there are only thousands of users affected 
with the fact that within a couple of weeks 760 people have found and 
installed this extension. That seems an impossibly large uptake rate to 
me given the number of steps involved and typical user behaviors. How 
would you reconcile the two facts?

Also, my theory is that the number of people negatively impacted by this 
change is people who:

  * use the url bar to search Google,
  * have changed the search box to something else, and
  * continued to use the url bar for Google.


I believe that is going to be much more than 0.002% of your user base. 
Do you?


> There are several classes of "hijackers". The blatantly malicious ones
> will adapt no matter what we do; we can try to make their life harder,
> but that's an arms race with no clear end. The other class of
> "hijackers" (which may be too pejorative a term) are legitimate
> companies with reputations to keep that will not stoop so low as to
> try to forcibly prevent user control of searches, but have an
> incentive to "nudge" users towards changing their search engine -
> sometimes too aggressively for our taste. And sometimes these
> non-malicious actors just run up against limitations of our code - for
> example, prior to these changes the easiest way to change location bar
> searches (set the keyword.URL pref) also ended up being the least
> user-friendly, and so the "lazy" way to do this ended up being
> harmful. Eliminating the lazy, user-harmful way of doing this forces
> these actors to put in a bit more effort, which ensures a better user
> experience.
>

Ok. I see what you're saying here. Thanks for explaining.

William
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