Changes coming to active daily user counts

As we have posted in the past, the active daily user counts we report in AMO statistics dashboards are always slightly inflated, but during Firefox releases they can be inflated much higher. Active daily user counts are just the number of update pings we get for each add-on in a day, but until Firefox 3.6, we had no way of knowing whether they were daily background update checks, manual checks, checks when upgrading Firefox, checks when an add-on is incompatible, etc. This is what causes the count inflation: some users are counted more than once in the same day.

Firefox 3.6 added a new parameter to the update check that tells us the type of check. This allows us to start counting only the daily background checks instead of all checks, leading to more accurate user counts and less volatility.

We plan to switch over to this new counting method on Monday, March 1. If an update ping has the update type information, we will only count that ping if it is a daily background check. There will still be some inflation, as update pings that don’t have the type information (versions before Firefox 3.6) will continue to be counted. Starting Monday night, add-on developers should expect active user counts to drop up to 20%, depending on how many of the add-on’s users are on Firefox 3.6.

We hope this will help developers be more confident in these statistics going forward, and look forward to users continuing to upgrade to Firefox 3.6 so that we can eliminate inflation entirely.

25 responses

  1. Ambient Themes(David) wrote on :

    Well that explains it, so im guessing more accurate readings?

  2. Bee wrote on :

    No!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think that AMOs aren’t getting the whole point about statistics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    You must give to users an option to avoid them from being counted in your statistics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    In the same way as you’re free to enable or disable updates, you should be free to participate, or not, in statistical measurements!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If you cannot choose, then AMOs is doing just the same of spywares!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Good developers don’t care about statistics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! they’ve no reason to care about them!!!!!!!!!!!!! statistics are only useful for people wanting to spy users or wanting to use those information for commercial purposes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If you’re forced to participate in statistical stuffs, then AMO is doing no better than evil multinational companies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  3. Vin wrote on :

    Statistics can be useful for developers so they can understand the impact certain updates/features have on their users. For example, if you alter some main functionality within your addon and then see your user count drop, you may be able to attribute this drop to the updated functionality.

    I don’t think you should classify this as spyware, as just about any web developer who has a website uses an analytics program such as Google Analytics, which track a lot more than just “pings” yet most sites arent spyway.


  4. Bee wrote on :

    Hi VIN!!!!!!!

    Statistics aren’t useful for developers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If i add one “unwanted” feature to my addon, I’d expect ‘my’ users to tell me that!!!!, they can write me emails or post their feelings and complaints at my forum board (it’s possible to post without registering an account!!!!!!!!!!!=no email disclosure neither!!!!) it’s a very good way!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I believe that your idea to look at the “statistics”, as a way to understand if one particular feature is annoy, is quite dumb!!!!!!!!!! You couldn’t be sure about what feature users dislike and for what reason!!!!!!!!!!! so you can’t solve any problem!!!!!!!!! Your point is just dull!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Statistics are only useful for others purposes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and the whole AMO system is very well oriented towards possible abuses!!!!!!!!! (and they’re already doing at least one….)!!!!

    Google Analytics isn’t a real problem to me!!! I can disable it, using AdBlock Plus and EasyList+EasyPrivacy!!!!!!!!!!!! What is different is the way Mozilla is using to force you to being counted in their statistics!!!!!!!! Yeah, this is what i call a spyware!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AMO is doing something of evil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Mozilla is tracking something more than just “pings”…. and i can’t avoid to being tracked, because i cant block AMO with AdBlock or whatsoever software!!!!!!!!!! They only give you one “enable updates” option that automatically, without telling you anything, adds your personal habits to their records!!!!!!!!!!!!! What version of firefox you have installed, whats your operating system, what’s your language, your installed addons and their versions, if you’ve them enabled/disabled……!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well, i don’t i don’t dont!!! like it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    However, you’ve not even got the point!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nobody cares if statistics are useful for developers!!!!!!!! if you were right that would be just like saying “statistics are useful for advertising agencies”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The point, is that USERS should be able to decide whenever they want to participate in worldwide polls of AMO, or not!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If you cannot choose, then Firefox is behaving like a spyware!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah, it’s a real spyware!!!!! You turn on the updates… and without giving you the freedom to choose firefox gifts you a slot in the AMO’s statistical system!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I don’t really like this “benevolent dictatorship” that AMO has all over the add-ons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Hah!!, and just to let you know something more… as you’re using a dull application called “Bad Behaviour”, your homepage/website isn’t very accessible for users using beefree !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  5. Standard8 wrote on :

    Just to note, Thunderbird 3.1b1pre and later (i.e. builds of 3.1 or 3.2 after 6th Feb 2010) also have the fix, so extension authors will be able to benefit from better stats there as well.

  6. Tom wrote on :

    AMO making the statistics even more useful and meaningful? Yes, please!

  7. Kim Ludvigsen wrote on :

    Dear Bee

    Please stop using multiple “!”. It is not making your points stronger, it is only making it more difficult to read your text. You should know that if you are past your teens.

    Regarding the spying. Please stop using the internet. Every site you visit is spying on you. You might be able to block Google Analytics, but you can’t block the sites own statistic. I guess even your own site is generating a log of visits.

    If the software were sending out pings for the sole purpose of making statistics, you could maybe call it a kind of spying. But in this case the software is checking for updates. It will leave a line in the log, as any visits to a website.

    So the question here is not whether to log or not, but whether to make the update checks more useful for the developers.

    Kim Ludvigsen

  8. Ken Saunders wrote on :

    Mozilla does have a privacy policy for all if not each of its products and services that can viewed at any time as do most other software makers, companies, etc. If you do not agree with any of the policies set forth by a software maker, website, organization, or company, then you do have a choice, don’t use the product.

    This is the second time that I’ve seen you trash Mozilla (AMO is a Mozilla product in case you couldn’t tell by the domain) and I say this is in the kindest way possible without any anger or other emotion associated with it.

    If you’re that unhappy with Mozilla, and if you believe that they truly are as evil as you’ve said that they are (more than once I believe), then wash your hands of them. Go develop add-ons for another browser. Go use another browser.
    You could use Chrome, but only if you’re willing to have the word privacy surgically removed from your brain, and the same could be said for IE and Google and Microsoft themselves.

    And finally.
    Please, please, pretty please, cut back a bit on the exclamation points.
    The repetitive pattern is burning my retinas.

  9. Bee wrote on :

    > then you do have a choice, don’t use the product.

    Well, you gave me one great idea!!!!!!!!!! as Firefox is open-source, it would be better to compile it again, removing the useless updating parameters sent to AMO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    What code is to remove?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If you could tell me the right file to edit, i could look up the right line a then recompile firefox!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I could also redistribute it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    KIM: web sites statistic are pretty much harmless!!!!!!!!!! All you can log is the useragent of your web-browser!!!!! and some others http-headers!!!!!!!! Also, logs cannot be accessed for economic purposes, but only legals!!!!!!!!!!
    And, by the way, what beefree does, is exactly sending sand into logs and removing private http-headers like the http referrer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That’s not possible against AMO, because they made it hardcoded into the software, and firefox will always send to AMO everything about your installed software!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you are given no ways to avoid it!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I also noticed, that i can send fake update-requests to AMO, and in this way i could poison their stats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it would be nice to have a script for doing that!!!!!!!!! i think that using wget or curl, could do the trick!!!!!!!!!


  10. Ken Saunders wrote on :

    “I also noticed, that i can send fake update-requests to AMO, and in this way i could poison their stats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it would be nice to have a script for doing that”

    Um, what you’re saying out in the open, in public, is reason enough for Mozilla to completely block you and if it is determined that you are doing what you said, which is a basically an attack, they could take legal action, your ISP could drop you and other fun and nifty things.

  11. Bee wrote on :

    Establishing TCP connections to a server and sending HTTP requests isn’t illegal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! perhaps it could be illegal in the USA or Iran, maybe North Korea; but nowhere else in the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If they at AMO feel free to force you to send them your data, about your browser, installed addons etc…!! then i could feel free to sent to AMO what i like too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Maybe, you were mistaking what i said with a botnet using DoS attacks!!!!!!!! (though are legal!!!!!!!!)

    So, it could be possible to create a script to clone the HTTP requests firefox is sending to AMOs servers!!!!! and you could send tons of fake requests to AMO!!!!!!!! changing the ID of addons every few times, to poison better their all stats!!!!!!!!!!
    It’s exactly what TrackMeNot ( ) does against web search engines!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Btw, for some reasons (and i don’t know what they are), you’re biased towards AMO!!!!!!!!!
    I ain’t even sure, whenever you’ve got a free will!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    What firefox is doing with AMO, is exactly what spywares are doing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If users aren’t free to decide to turn off the tracking/statistical system, then AMO is in the wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  12. da wrote on :

    For me, that have nothing to to with spying!

    An Firefox user know, that the addons are automatically updated. And that is really good, ecspecially in such criticat environments such as browsers.

    And then Mozilla can also make statistics about that…

  13. Bee wrote on :

    Hi da!!!!!!
    You aren’t getting my point!!!!!!!!!

    Well, i also know that it’s good to keep addons updated!!!!! but, it’s in no way, related to statistical systems!!!!!!!!!!!

    If you turn on updates, all you want are addons UPDATES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    You may want to be counted in AMO’s statistics, but if you don’t want to be counted: you’re given no ways to refuse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s what i call “spying”!!!Mozilla has for sure learnt how to do it from Google!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    AMO is an evil system, because if you want to get updates, then it FORCES you to end up in their statistical web!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    «don’t be evil» they say….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It’s also written nowhere next to the updates options, that turning on the updates will log your (so mistakenly called) “pings”!!!!!!!! (a “ping” sends nothing at all, but what Firefox is sending to mozilla is much more than a “ping”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).
    I would like if Mozilla could add an option (enabled by default) to turn off the statistical logging!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    It’s what i call “respecting users”: giving users choices to choose from!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    A ping a day, keeps the privacy away!!!!!!!!! and everything you’ve installed in your Firefox is disclosed to Mozilla!!!!!!!!!!!
    What if “Microsoft Windows” was sending everyday a “ping” to Redmond within the list of ALL your installed software, your operating system language, your applications versions, their usage status, etc?!!!!!!!!!!!! I wouldn’t like it!!!!!!!!!!! (btw, i don’t use Windows lol!!!!!!!!!!).
    I don’t care of AMO’s excuse “«we collect your data,» «anonymously»”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What i dislike is the first, not the latter, piece of that phrase!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    AMO is oriented towards abuses, and they’re already doing ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  14. OldPeculiar wrote on :

    I agree with Bee, there should be an option to easily turn this off.

    And I think I know where the ‘feeling’ here is coming from. Would we have seen such behaviour from firefox developers if they had not jumped in bed with google?.

    Before you react to that, have a think about the recent Geo location ability of firefox, on by default, ready to receive nicely worded share invites for in-expeienced users.

    Where is there an easy option to turn it off?, I know its in about:config, but wheres the easy option.

    With each release now since then I have become more and more suspicious of new ‘features’, and get the distinct impression that google has a hand in steering the way things are going.

    1. Justin Scott (fligtar) wrote on :

      OldPeculiar, a few things:

      * There are several ways to not be included in the aggregate statistics: you can turn off add-on updates, you can only install add-ons that aren’t hosted on and manage their own updates, or you could stop using add-ons altogether if this is that concerning for you. There is no way for an add-on hosted by Mozilla to check for updates without sending the data needed to return an update applicable to your configuration. Keep in mind that there are of course tradeoffs for these actions, be it having insecure add-ons because they aren’t updated or sending your update pings to a third party that might not care about privacy as much as Mozilla does.

      * Google has absolutely nothing to do with this and your implication is baffling to me. If you haven’t noticed, they have their own browser that competes with Firefox.

      * Firefox never sends your location to anyone without your explicit permission. In order for a website to use the geolocation API, a prompt comes up and asks the user if they’d like to share their location with that website. Of course, some websites attempt to find your location by your IP address, but Firefox can’t do anything about that.

  15. Bee wrote on :


    «There are several ways to not be included in the aggregate statistics: you can turn off add-on updates»

    AMO is monopolistic, imperialistic and always ready to blackmail you!!!!!!
    I see their blackmail there, and i said it before too!!!
    Don’t want to be spied? Then get lost!!!!!!!
    There is no freedom with AMO… if you want the updates, then you must end up in their statistics!!! you aren’t free to choose to get the updates, and to avoid to end up in their statistics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Don’t be evil, right? Is it?!!!

    «There are several ways to not be included in the aggregate statistics: […] you can only install add-ons that aren’t hosted on and manage their own updates»

    That’s almost fake!!!!!!
    If you want to use the embedded system that Firefox is using for addons updates and you want to use it without using AMO, the only way you’re given use it, is to buy expensive SSL certificates (and to use them on non-free webhosting providers, with one domain and a dedicated IP)!!!!!!! in this way, only the best addons, those addons made for free without greedy people looking for money, are put at a disadvantage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If you don’t have a “secure http connection” tons of “warning messages” are displayed to users!!!!!
    Those scary warning messages are used by AMOs, in the same way as the news in TV are used to scare “the mob” and then to justify repressive laws!!!!!!!!
    AMO did everything of possible to discourage people to use addons that aren’t hosted at!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is there any good reason for it?!!!!!!!!! NO!!!!!!! AMO only wants to keep its monopoly!!!!!!!!!
    This is sure: if you’re a company and you’re doing your own addons for economic purpose (for example, look at the notorious NoScript) then you’ve the money to host your addons at your own server…. and surprise: you wouldn’t need it!!!! because if you’ve done your addons with the original idea to make money out of them; then you’ll also want to “spy” users, using the statistics AMO is providing!!!!!!!!!! In this way, AMO, is much more similar to a Trojan Horse… AMO exploits your trust, to allow companies to obtain statistics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    On the other hand, free addons made for free and by free developers have no reason to “track” their users!!!!!!!!!!

    «There are several ways to not be included in the aggregate statistics: […] or you could stop using add-ons altogether if this is that concerning for you.»

    Yeah!!! Blackmails must be written twice!!!! ‘or else’ someone could ignore them…!!!!!!!!

    «There is no way for an add-on hosted by Mozilla to check for updates without sending the data needed to return an update applicable to your configuration. Keep in mind that there are of course tradeoffs for these actions, be it having insecure add-ons because they aren’t updated or sending your update pings to a third party that might not care about privacy as much as Mozilla does.»

    Taking lessons of privacy from AMO!!!!!!! i like this joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    By the way, what you wrote is absolutely false!!!!!!! With the almost-nothing i had, I made my own updating system for beefree without needing to send anything of personal out of web browsers…!!!!
    Now, to prove that what you said are a lot of nonsense stuffs, i’ll show you the request that Firefox sends to AMO only to update one single addon: beefree (the unique ID of beefree is “{BEE0F7EE-BEE0-BEE0-BEE0-BEE0F7EE0000}”):

    Well, i’m sure (i know this) that you could make the updating system work only by sending this request:

    Funny, is it??!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    AMO doesn’t care of the privacy of their (firefox)users!!!!!

    You could have that page sending back as response the XML data about the last version of a specified addon, and then Firefox could analyze the XML “client-side”!!!!!!!!! It’s not even necessary to send out the “appID” (the ID of firefox)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Why would you need to know (let’s say) the version of the current installed addon?!!!!!!! or the user’s “locale” language?!!!!!! or if i’m keeping that addon ‘enabled’ or ‘disabled’?!!!!!! AMO has no reasons to know it!!!!!!!!!
    AMO doesn’t need to know everything about you!!!!! to give you updates!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Those information are exclusively useful, and used, for statistics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What is also scary, is the way that AMO is using to discard this “problem”, they’re just trying to ignore it!!!!!!!!!!
    I think that what AMO is doing is suspicious and wrong on its principles!!!!
    AMOs don’t see anything of wrong in what they’re doing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!and again, from my point, it makes everything much more suspicious!!!!!!!!!!
    Just like a sinking ship, i think that AMO is going in the wrong direction!!!!!!!!!


  16. Ambient Themes(David) wrote on :

    Bee: “AMO did everything of possible to discourage people to use addons that aren’t hosted at!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is there any good reason for it?!!!!!!!!! NO!!!!!!! AMO only wants to keep its monopoly!!!!!!!!!”

    yea youre right lets ignore the safety from harmful addons they provide and lets start installing popular addons that have been modified by a 3rd party from other websites with hidden harmful components inside.

  17. Bee wrote on :

    Hi DAVID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What you said could be right sometimes, …almost right (btw it isn’t related to AMO’s statistics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
    If users download and install addons, or .EXE files, without looking at their source code and without caring about the safety of their systems; they could damage their PC without needing to install firefox addons!!!!!!!!!!!!
    My users were using beefree long time before i sent it to AMO!!!!!!!!!!!! so, what?!!!!
    They were very annoyed of warning messages displayed from Firefox!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bee: «AMO did everything of possible to discourage people to use addons that aren’t hosted at!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is there any good reason for it?!!!!!!!!! NO!!!!!!! AMO only wants to keep its monopoly!!!!!!!!!»

    Yeah, i’m right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  18. Daniel Einspanjer wrote on :

    It looks like this change has resulted in a 5% to 6% drop in several of the publicly shared add-on statistics for yesterday compared with Monday of last week. We’ll have to see how magnified the results might be after more people migrate to 3.6.

    Bee: “KIM: web sites statistic are pretty much harmless!!!!!!!!!!”

    Great, so we should be good then. While I know there is nothing I could say that would change Bee’s mind one bit about this, I will say something for anyone else reading along in this thread:

    We use weblogs to figure out how many times an add-on is downloaded for a particular application (i.e. Firefox or Thunderbird) and a particular OS (add-ons can have different versions for different operating systems). We don’t do anything special here. When the visitor downloads, they are requesting a URL that has the application name and the operating system name in it.

    We use weblogs to figure out how many times an add-on is checked for updates. While it might have been possible to pass nothing but an add-on GUID, it means that the response would be a larger document listing the latest version of the add-on for every compatible version of every application for every operating system that the add-on supports. Given the volume of traffic that AMO handles every day, increasing the size of the response for the most common request would directly translate into a large increase in operational costs.

    I myself and Mozilla as an organization take privacy and openness very seriously. The tools I wrote that we use to process weblogs were specifically developed to ensure that potentially identifiable information like IP address and cookies never even make it into the database. At the end of the day, we roll up the statistics to the day level and only store that. It saves space obviously, but it also helps because it means we cannot accidentally leak information by correlating usage with the time of day.

    Rather than keeping these statistics to ourselves, we make them available to the add-on developers that choose to host their add-ons on AMO. In turn, those developers can choose whether they want to make those statistics available to their end users. My observation of bug, blog, IRC, and e-mail communication with add-on developers lead me to believe that most of them look at these statistics as a benefit. I will continue to do the best I can to support the AMO team in continuing to provide this benefit.

  19. Vin wrote on :

    Is it possible to disable the use of exclamation points from this comment thread?

    1. Justin Scott (fligtar) wrote on :

      Vin — good idea.

      Comments with excessive exclamation points will now automatically be marked as spam.

      Bee, if you continue to troll this blog, future comments from you will be disabled. You’ve already been banned from 2 other AMO communication channels for abuse. If you hate us so much, please host your add-on elsewhere.

  20. Dave Garrett wrote on :

    Daniel: Only a 5% to 6% drop? The initial post said it could be up to 20%. Assuming that number was for a 100% 3.6 user-base, I was expecting something around 10% total. Any guesses as to why the number is only a little more than half of that?

    (might be a good idea to note the actual numbers in an update to the post itself, seeing as the comments section is… lets say, hard to read)

  21. Ken Saunders wrote on :

    Nice work AMO team (and Mozilla) on keeping your cool and being professional. I’ve refrained from responding (any further) at least 3 times because I didn’t want to feed into the madness (any more than I had) with replies that would have been longer than all of the comments on this page combined.

    It’s my opinion that sabotage is illega and always deliberate, and that is what Bee was stating by saying “in this way i could poison their stats”.
    If anything, it provides justification for global blocking across all Mozilla sites for violating Mozilla’s website usage policies.

    “i can send fake update-requests to AMO”
    Just because a person has the ability to do something, they don’t have the right to abuse and misuse that ability however they see fit.
    It isn’t illegal for me to own a hand gun, or even fire it, but it is to hold hostages at gun point because I want the tax code changed or I want to cause chaos.

    I think that WordPress has a word blocklist/blacklist feature that’s typically used for preventing offensive (to some) words from being posted in comments. I’d add a few exclamation mark filters, perhaps anything over two.
    I can be pretty passionate that’s why I say over two. 🙂

  22. Screwgoogle wrote on :

    What’s up with you Bee, dont you know how the Googlenet works. Privacy is something to be only read about in history books. Keep up the fight though.

  23. David wrote on :


    We are currently self hosting, and will probably move to AMO after more testing. In the mean time, is it possible to get the specs of the API that is now used when update.rdf is called, so that I can run such analytics myself?
    If they are already online, a link to those would be very helpful.