The Funnel

When Mozilla distributes the latest version of Firefox, there is this idea of “the funnel” – of people who come to to download Firefox, what pain points might they be experiencing along their path to becoming an initial or regular user? At its widest section, the funnel consists of all the visits to From there, some visitors download Firefox, then some of those visitors install it, some use it once, and a subset eventually become long term users.

Right now we look at the funnel on at the highest level. We consider our total hits on www.m.c, our total download counts, our total hits on firstrun pages, the total number of clients checking for updates — all the meanwhile trying to draw some conclusions. So far, we have found that the combination of looking at the highest aggregate numbers and not being able to connect the dots produces little insight into users’ experiences. We are interested in some ability to see what happens over specific periods of time, not just what has happened in all of time. If we can get a better idea of what is happening in the funnel, our community can better ponder how to improve retention, among other things.

We’d like a solution that allows us to determine during which time frame Firefox was downloaded. At the same time, we are not interested in negatively affecting our users’ privacy. Our solution is to tweak a few preferences that tie back to Mozilla currently (first run urls, update urls), and then distribute those changes over a very brief, predefined time period. This way, no additional information about Firefox is sent to Mozilla. Correlating anonymous hits on Mozilla services to a given distribution date will allow us to understand what is happening in the funnel.

When given the choice between users’ privacy and information collection, we consistently side with the user. We’re being super cautious not to degrade privacy while we attempt to gather information that improves the Firefox experience for new users within our community — looking at the funnel is one of our initiatives on this front.

5 responses

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  5. John Smith wrote on :

    I’m strongly against any “phone home” behavior in any software. For any reason whatsoever, including “improving the user experience”.

    The idea of there being a slippery slope has some merit. What’s the next bit of privacy we can take, now that no one important has complained about the previous bits?