Breaking url-bar search

Tyler Downer tdowner at mozilla.com
Mon Aug 19 16:05:42 UTC 2013


Tyler Downer
User Advocate for All Things Firefoxy

On 8/19/13 8:42 AM, William Pietri wrote:
> 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?
>
Honestly that's a pretty low number, seeing that 1 of them is me ;) (and 
likely most users are Mozilla employees, Community members, and then 
users from the SUMO Threads where we regularly promote this add-on), so 
no, 700-800 users for an add-on is pretty small.

And yes, you are correct that this impacts users who used the URL Bar 
for Google and search bar for something else, that is true, and these 
users are moving to SUMO where we are equipped to help them.
>
>
>> 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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