An Improved Experience for 2,000,000 non-Firefox Users

A few months ago, we laid out the following:

“Installing a piece of software can be a challenging process for the typical person to traverse.  For example, with Firefox, we know that each day there are more than 50,000 people who fall into the following group – they complete the download process (receive the full data/file), but don’t then complete their installation of Firefox.”

To help solve this problem, we integrated the following feedback mechanism into the Firefox installer for a single day in late March.


As a result, we arrived at two critical issues that were preventing users from installing Firefox:

  1. Users were running into directory issues.  Example comments were along the lines of — “telling me i don’t have access to write to the installation directory… .”  And non-Firefox users, in particular, were experiencing this problem.
  2. Firefox not exiting/closing cleanly (e.g., a zombie process).

In response, the Firefox team integrated a fix for Problem #1 into the Fx3.5 installer (released last month).  In short, the installer now requests elevation for non-admin users on Vista and above when UAC is turned on (see bug 404541 for details) and fallback to non-privileged install locations when the user doesn’t have write access to the Program Files directory.

Did the fix work?  Did the modified Firefox installer actually lead to an improved user experience?


This past Tuesday, we re-ran the feedback mechanism for a 24-hour period, so that any user canceling out of the Firefox installer was asked if they wanted to leave feedback.  And what did we find?  With the chart below, of the 400+ responses we received, I went through the individual comments left by users and grouped them into 5 different categories.  Problem #1 (noted above) virtually disappeared.  Problem #2 grew its overall share of the pie (compared with last time).


How did we arrive at our estimated impact of 2,000,000 users?  We estimate that roughly 5,000 people were running into Problem #1 – daily.  Multiplied by 365 days, that equates to roughly 2 million people who will be aided by an improved experience over the next year.

Up next on the horizon… the Firefox team is looking into implementing some workaround solutions for Firefox users falling into the blue pie slice above (the timeframe is a couple months out).  Also, with our next post, I’ll dive into the second most popular comment – selecting Firefox as your default browser during the installation process.  Stay tuned!

7 responses

  1. Michael Kaply wrote on :

    I’ve been doing this for years and ran into the “default browser” problem. I had a machine where I didn’t want Firefox ad the default. I didn’t even see the tiny checkbox at the bottom. I got through the install, saw it would be the default and then had to backtrack back to the beginning. I personally think it would work better if the summary screen allowed you to change things, instead of having to backtrack to the very first page.

  2. Ken Saunders wrote on :

    Amazing and fascinating work! Well done indeed.

    I’m not sure if there is a bug filed for it, but (for Vista users) when the the option to set Firefox as the default in the installer is unchecked, a user is still prompted with a request to make Firefox the default upon launching Firefox.
    I’ve read someone state that isn’t any different than IE not respecting your default choices (even though it is different, Firefox is hijacking your settings) but they make a good point and as a long time Firefox user myself, I find it to be annoying especially since I frequently create testing profiles, install different versions, and have already made Firefox my default browser and don’t want the newly installed version set as my default overriding my primary and previously installed one. So I can understand users concerns.

  3. Ken Saunders wrote on :

    *Firefox is NOT hijacking your settings

  4. Mark Townsend wrote on :

    What is the bug number for the zombie process fix?

  5. Tomer wrote on :

    Cool, very nice statistics.
    But why base it only on 24 hours feedback window, maybe if you do it a bit longer you’ll get different/more complete picture.

  6. Ted Mielczarek wrote on :

    This is great info, clearly helpful for targeting the biggest issues around installation. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Havvy wrote on :

    The number will fall short of 2million, as it is possible to have multiple issues. Also, even past that, those who fail the first time can retry it, and succeed, making the number less than 50,000 per day.