Breaking url-bar search

William Pietri william at
Tue Aug 20 14:29:27 UTC 2013

On 08/19/2013 10:48 AM, Gavin Sharp wrote:
> I'm not sure there's much use in speculating, but here goes. The two 
> add-ons available to address this problem 
> ( and 
> are 
> well-linked from support articles describing the change, blog posts, 
> etc. They are easily findable for affected users doing a Google search 
> for "keyword.URL". So it makes sense that they will have been 
> installed by many such users. If 20000 users used keyword.URL or cared 
> about having distinct engines for the search bar vs. the URL bar, it 
> seems possible that ~2000 of them would find and install one of the 
> add-ons that restores the functionality. 

Thanks. If you're up from "thousands" to "tens of thousands" then we're 
moving closer to agreeing on the size of the problem, so that's progress.

I'm glad we also agree that there are now two distinct populations under 
consideration, people who specifically set "keyword.URL", and those who 
just used the visible interface features to get two search engines.

For the first group, I agree a 10% uptake rate isn't completely 
impossible, although I think it's high. For the later group, I believe 
it is impossible. For basically the same reason, I also believe that the 
latter group is much larger than the former: manually tuning the 
"Keyword.URL" parameter is a focused and very sophisticated behavior. 
Changing the pulldown once and leaving it isn't.

I also suspect there's a third group: people who didn't really intend to 
use two search engines, but who expected the url bar to keep doing what 
it was doing for them, and had that expectation violated when the url 
bar changed to doing whatever was set in the search box. Here I'd expect 
there two be two sub-groups that differ in impact: those who discover 
the relationship between the search box and the url bar, and so can 
control things, and those who don't. I expect that none of these people 
will install the extensions, so I don't think we can indirectly measure 
them from extension uptake.

>> 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?
> Perhaps, but again I'm not sure I see much value in speculating in the
> abstract. We can argue about specific made up numbers, but what is the
> end goal? Should we revert course on the changes we made? That can't
> happen at this point. Should we attempt to address the use case in
> some other way? I would welcome your suggestions, but I'm skeptical
> that it's a use case worth investing a lot of effort into addressing.
> Should we attempt to actually measure the impacted users? I'm not sure
> how we would go about doing that, and it seems like there are likely
> more pressing things to measure. But I welcome your thoughts on
> proposed steps forward from here!

Well, unless we agree that there's a problem and agree on the size of 
the problem, there's not much point in discussing solutions. From the 
discussion on the ticket, it seemed like the Mozilla belief at the 
beginning of the discussion was "no problem". Since I perceive a 
problem, I'm hoping to talk about the issue until either I understand 
that it's not actually a problem, or until Mozilla understands that 
there is one.

But to address your questions directly, I'm not particularly concerned 
about this use case. Mozilla's relatively slow release cycle means that 
you can't avert what I see as a substantial negative impact. I'm much 
more interested in what Mozilla can to do reduce the chance that future 
problems of this sort occur.


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