This is a proposal for an experiment that I would love to see us build. At the very least I think there are some good ideas in here that might work as experiments on their own. But to be clear, we’re not removing add-ons, customization or anything else from Firefox.
I created this video about bookmarks for Firefox 29. It’s in English and has closed captions for a few languages, including German. But you can see from this audience retention data that German speakers don’t watch the video as much as English speakers.
So, with Kadir‘s help, I made a German version (above). You can see that this video performs much better in German speaking locales. Of course this is what we expected but it’s cool to see how plainly it shows up.
Note: Rewinding and re-watching can result in values higher than 100%.
I’ve been working on a number of things over the last couple of months and I wanted to share two of them. First, bookmarks. Making this bookmarks video for Firefox 29 reminded me of a long-standing issue that’s bothered me. By default, new bookmarks are hidden away in the unsorted bookmarks folder. So without any instruction, they’re pretty hard to find. Now that we have this fun animation that shows you where your new bookmark went, I thought it would be good if you could actually see that bookmark when clicking on the bookmarks menu button. After thinking about a number of approaches we decided to move the list of recent bookmarks from a sub-menu and expose them directly in the main bookmarks menu.
Another project that I’ve been focusing on is Firefox Reset. The one, big, unimplemented piece of this work that began about three years ago, is making this feature discoverable when people need it. And the main place we like to surface this option is when people try to reinstall the same version of Firefox that they are currently running. We often see people try to do this, expecting that it will fix various problems. The issue is that reinstalling doesn’t fix many things at all. What most people are expecting to happen, actually happens when you reset Firefox. So here we’d like to take two approaches. If the download page knows that you have the same version of Firefox that you are trying to download, it should offer you a reset button instead of the regular download button.
The other approach is to have Firefox detect if it’s just had the same version installed and offer you the opportunity to reset Firefox.
The nice thing about these approaches is that work together. If you determine that something is wrong with Firefox and you want to fix it by reinstalling, you’ll see a reset button on the download page. If you use that, the reset process takes just a few seconds and you can be on your way. If you want to download and install a new copy you can, and you’ll have another opportunity to reset after Firefox has launched and you’ve verified whether the issue has been fixed. This presentation explains in more detail how these processes might work. This work isn’t final and there are a few dependencies to work out but I’m hopeful these pieces can be completed soon.
Yesterday I was on another episode of The Web Ahead. This time, talking about the videoblogging movement that I was involved in starting back in 2004. It was then that my friend Ryanne and I created Freevlog to teach people how to get video on the web (we later turned that into a book). Firefox was a really big thing for us back then and it was the beginning of my love of the Mozilla mission and eventually led to me working at Mozilla.
For the better part of a year we’ve been working on some big improvements to the browsability and searchability of the Mozilla Support site. In this video I walk though the changes and talk about the improvements on the horizon.
Update: This feature is available in the latest Firefox. Download it now from mozilla.org/firefox
A little more than two years ago when I joined the support team, one of the first things that struck me was that most every support procedure we had involved a long list of troubleshooting steps. The idea seemed to be, let’s try to identify the exact cause of the problem and just fix that. That sounds reasonable but the practical implication of that often isn’t: Is your software up to date? If yes, let’s turn off your plugins and see what happens. Did the problem go away? No? Does the problem happen in safe mode? If no, let’s try turning half of your extensions back on. What about a new profile? Great, now just copy places.sqlite from your old profile to your new profile.
What a mess. What mere mortal has the time, skill and patience to work their way though all that? And if the thing that needs fixing isn’t easily reproducible? Forget it. It’s now become a part-time job. I suspect that for many people, it’s just easier to switch to another browser since you’ve already got one installed on your computer. Problem solved.
So the support team worked with product and engineering to create the Reset Firefox feature. The first implementation of this is a button on the Troubleshooting Information page (about:support). What is does is create a new profile and migrate your bookmarks, passwords, cookies and form data. Everything else gets set to the defaults.
I have to say, this thing is like magic. You basically get a brand new Firefox installation without the penalty of losing all your data. This is especially useful as a quick fix for the thousands of posts we see on social media where people often express vague complaints about Firefox. “Firefox is slow.” “Firefox crashes too much.” “Firefox sucks.”
The big gap in the current implementation is that, for the most part, people won’t know about this feature unless we tell them about it. Future plans involve making it discoverable. Soon we’ll give users the option to reset Firefox when it crashes on startup for the third time. And the really big thing will be giving Windows users this option when re-installing Firefox. Maybe one day the phrase, “I tried re-installing Firefox but it didn’t do anything” will go away.