Dissecting Firefox's retention woes

Dissecting Firefox's retention woes

Summary: Mozilla says 50 percent of the people that download Firefox actually try it. And half of that group actually uses it actively.

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TOPICS: Browser, Microsoft
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Mozilla says 50 percent of the people that download Firefox actually try it. And half of that group actually uses it actively.

That's a major issue--and a surprising admission since the confession renders millions of downloads moot. As a loyal Firefox user that retention rate is just shocking.

Let's examine some of the reasons why:

  • Bundles matter: IE comes with Windows and is prominent on the desktop. You also don't have to do anything to use it with Outlook and other Microsoft apps.
  • People don't switch: As long as IE and Firefox are comparable enough people won't switch browsers.
  • And if people don't switch they sure aren't going to download a new browser or plug-ins as sometimes you have to with Firefox.

It's safe to assume that these folks that download Firefox go back to IE just based on habit and market share.

Mozilla has created a 12 point plan to make Firefox a keeper to passers by (see gallery). Meanwhile, given how Mozilla gets paid this 12 point plan has to be a high priority project. If it could just get some percentage of folks to stick with Firefox it would pad the coffers a good bit. Mozilla is largely supported by search referrals to Google.

Here's Mozilla's 12 point retention plan and my prognosis :

firefox1.png

1. Change Firefox icon to resemble action of getting to the Web. Think an icon like the one on the left.

Will it work? Doubtful. Does anyone really use an icon just because it has a little arrow pointing somewhere?

2. Put the Firefox icon in a better location. Force the issue.

firefox2.png

Will it work? It sure couldn't hurt. Being in the system tray matters.

3. Make default browser settings easier for users. Something like this:

firefox3.png

Will it work? Yes, this would work. But it rubs me the wrong way. Sort of RealNetworks-ish.

4. Big outbound marketing program driving brand recognition.

Will it work? Doubtful. Save the dough.

5. Improve download page and first run pages. Something like this:

firefox4.png

6. Improve support page.

Will it work? It sure can't hurt.

7. Make plug-ins work out of the box.

Will it work? To me, plug-ins are the biggest drawback with Firefox. But overall the current process is pretty easy. But given the churn the plug-ins aren't easy enough.

8. Make add-ons and personas more accessible.

Will it work? Doubtful. These folks that rebound back to IE probably don't care about personas.

9. Make the Web feel more human.

Will it work? As a general rule, I've heard of worse ideas.

10. Improve messaging through communications channels.

Will it work? Personally, I can do without the PR. And it's hard to believe that Mozilla can improve messaging. After all Mozilla just posted these poor stats and gave Microsoft some good ideas for IE, which uses Firefox as the roadmap anyway. Tabs anyone?

11. Stickier start page.

Will it work? Eh.

12. Change Firefox icon image to resemble action of getting to Web.

Will it work. Doubtful. No one is going to think Firefox equals the Web. IE has that vibe cornered.

Topics: Browser, Microsoft

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147 comments
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  • You need to use Browser Stats

    I would be surprised if 50% actually download it and never try it. That means that 1/2 the people just like to arbitrarily download things to their desktops and then delete it?

    Regardless, I think the real FF message is word of mouth. In my circle, no one, at work, friends, etc use IE. Many can't because they use Linux. Overseas, FF momentum is certainly larger than in North America, but this is based on actual usage stats from w3schools, netcraft, etc...

    That is the overall problem with free, not every download counts, but it is also distributed with Linux, etc.

    I also think asking to be the default browser is not cheezy at all. Many programs do it, and it helps the person who wants it as the default, without having to go find it. I do agree, ONLY ASK ONCE.

    I'd like to see FF be more obvious about it's capabilities. Why not have a buttons labeled "Skin Changer", "Pop Up Blocker Config", "Plugin Finder", each opens an easy to use GUI.

    Finally, why doesn't Mozilla play the same way others do, pay Dell to pre-install it on every computer, preset as the default, and team up with Google to have all it's ware's pre-installed. That would certainly please Redmond, but hey, Dell seems to be gaining decision making independence.

    TripleII
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • Good advice.

      I don't know how it supports your cause but here they are;

      http://marketshare.hitslink.com/report.aspx?qprid=6
      ShadeTree
      • LOL, not my cause

        But I just found comparable stats (below). Say 13-16% US. I was just saying you have to look at real world stats to measure usage, not go by downloads.

        TripleII
        TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • That's why half of downloaders do not install.

      A guess without evidence.

      Many pieces of software offer download of Google or FireFox along with the software intended. It's possible to prevent the additional download by unchecking a button, but most people click through even EULA's to make the screens delaying download stop.

      The impatient individual receives the FireFox or Google software and then avoids installation.


      You wrote:

      "Finally, why doesn't Mozilla play the same way others do, pay Dell to pre-install it on every computer, preset as the default, and team up with Google to have all it's ware's pre-installed. That would certainly please Redmond, but hey, Dell seems to be gaining decision making independence."

      Ah, more crapware.

      I expect it would be added to the list of items to be removed by that specialized new computer clean-up software.

      If it were only ignored, that would add large numbers to the on-computer-but-not-installed total.
      Anton Philidor
  • Why would anyone use FF?

    Because they're marginalised and use one of the fringe OSs like *nix.

    Because they're easily scared by talk of IE problems and exploits (of course FF has them as well)

    Because they want a harder to use browser so they can appear to be techie

    Because they don't understand a much better one is free with Windows.

    All this worry and angst over a picture frame.
    tonymcs@...
    • What Angst?

      Firefox reaches 16% US
      http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/07/11/firefox-surgest-to-15-market-share-in-us/

      Firefox reaches 28% Europe
      http://mozillalinks.org/wp/2007/07/firefox-takes-28-market-share-in-europe/

      Not bad for a browser you have to download instead of imbed in an OS. I think the only angst is from Redmond (and where ever you live). IE once had 92% of the market. It is obvious that the browser bundled with the OS is NOT satisfying customers.

      [B]Because they're marginalised and use one of the fringe OSs like *nix.[/B]

      Linux is at 28% desktop usage in Europe? Hmmm, some of them must be using Windows.

      Thanks for the pre-release Balmer talking points memo.

      TripleII
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • I'll give you some good reasons

      It's not Microsoft and therefore doesn't help to support their illegal monopoly.

      "Because they're easily scared by talk of IE problems and exploits (of course FF has them as well)" But of course, and at least, Mozilla works to plug their problems, while MS ignores theirs.

      If they wanted a "harder to use browser" they'd stick with IE. What's so hard about Firefox? Its menus are far easier to find things in than IE.

      "Because they don't understand a much better one is free with Windows".

      I wasn't aware that MS was including Opera with Windows, not that I believe Opera is any better than Firefox, but you certainly couldn't be talking about IE.
      mdsmedia
      • Obviously Opera isn't any better than Firefox, which is why...

        the Firefox coders seem to keep copying their "new" features from the Opera browser!
        Scrat
    • It's a great browser!

      It's a great browser. It's got excellent standards support. It's got excellent plugins. It's got 12% of the market. It's got many technologies that IE6 didn't have (although IE7 sorta fixed that).

      "Because they're easily scared by talk of IE problems and exploits (of course FF has them as well)"

      That may be true to some extent, but I am enjoying AdBlock Plus and NoScript - which offer me security protections not found in IE. To be fair, however, IE7 has secure mode in Vista.

      "Because they want a harder to use browser so they can appear to be techie"

      Harder to use? That's an outright lie. Everything works the same as IE6 - and you can easily use a plugin to rearrange and hide the menus if you want it to act like IE7.

      "Because they don't understand a much better one is free with Windows."

      Much better? Firefox easily surpassed IE6 a long time ago, and IE7 is still playing catch up.

      The fact that Firefox was able to pierce IE's market share when Microsoft was a monopoly tells me that it's a very good browser. Would an inferior browser really be able to gain 12% in a market that was 95% IE6 at one time? I seriously doubt it. To pierce such a monopoly they had to create a browser that was better than IE.

      If it weren't better than IE, I doubt it would gain even 1%.

      "All this worry and angst over a picture frame."

      Ask any web developer - the picture frame was broken. Very broken. It was held together with duct tape and glue. It was falling apart, and the picture was cracked and fading. It was time to fix the frame and restore the picture. Which Firefox (and later IE7) did.
      CobraA1
      • re:It's a great browser!

        I use both and like both. I do tend to have more javascript problems when I develop websites with Firefox than I do with IE...other than that...it is a great browser.

        "The fact that Firefox was able to pierce IE's market share when Microsoft was a monopoly tells me that it's a very good browser."

        Which tells me that Microsoft is not a monopoly and never was. Being a monopoly would require that they are the only kid on the block...not just the biggest. I sure wish the anti-MS talking heads would try an honest argument for a change.

        Eric
        owner@...
    • Because FF is better than alternatives?

      This hard-core Windows user ditched IE a long time ago once I honestly evaluated FF. This was pre-IE 7.0, and thus FF's tabs were the t#ts. But even after IE 7 came out, MS's efforts just seemed like a poor execution of 'me too' compared to FF. The add-ons that are available are great and really make the biggest difference.

      The only reason I can see not to use FF is if you frequent poorly written web sites that cater to IE. As for me, the only time I use IE is for Windows Updates now. FF is so customizable and user-friendly that it makes the one-size-fits-all IE pretty unappealing. FF gets installed on every PC I touch these days - can't live without it. IE is just so clunky.
      ejhonda
      • Because FF is better than alternatives?

        I agree. FF is a much better alternative to IE. You really don't even need to use IE for windows updates now that FF has a plug-in that allows you to do it. The plug-in is called Windiz update.
        firemedic@...
      • re: tabbed browsing

        I never really saw the difference between having a tab up top or haveing a tab on the Windows menu bar on the bottom. I always thought the "tabbed browsing" argument in favor of firefox was pretty stupid. it's still opening up another instance of the browser.

        Eric
        owner@...
    • I find FF better

      I've found FireFox easier to use, better laided out and it looks much better to boot.

      Not saying IE is bad. It can do pretty much the same thing as FireFox if you use IE 7 but it's just not as easier or laid out as good. IE 7 also has a dumbed down look. I know I can get IE to work as good as FF if I spend the time configuring it but who wants to do that when I can get it all in FireFox from the install. With IE I have download IE 7 then go in changing tool bars and settings to make it usable for for me.

      In the end IE 7 loses out to FireFox but it's head and tails better than IE 6. I'm looking forward to seeing what Microsoft does with IE 8.

      If anything FireFox gave you IE 7 and if you like IE 7 you should be happy about that. If it wasn't for FireFox we'd still be using IE 6.
      voska
    • I Agree!

      Unlike some of the replies... I agree whole-heartenly! Here is a simple test to PROVE why FF is not as popular... Place BOTH icons aside of each other on your desktop... Now double click on the IE... BINGO! You have a browser in about a second. Close that and double click the FF icon. Go for a beer and come back... perhaps you'll have a browser by the time you return. PEOPLE DON'T LIKE SLOW!

      If that is because the IE is built into the OS, then it is not FF fault... but that is a show stopper!
      DarbyOhara
      • Slow

        The slowness is one of the issues of firefox that needs to be addressed. It was mentioned in Adrian's blog about this as well. The browser has become bloated over the past few years, and that needs some serious work.

        On the other hand... I still use FF for a number of reasons. I started using it back in the v0.9 days, when it was faster than IE, and now I am used to it, and enjoy using it far more then IE. Also, I have stability issues with IE7 on Vista. Also , IE7 refuses to run at the same time as another app I use, which could be annoying.
        Azriphale
      • You're test fails

        Both are the same speed.

        Side by side I can click on then the other and both pop up in less than a second. Maybe if I go down to milliseconds IE might be a bit faster but does that really matter?

        Also IE isn't faster due to being part of the OS. It's faster because it starts up during logon. If you set FireFox to do the same you don't need to worry about speed issues.
        voska
      • Funny

        I get the exact opposite behaviour on my system. Load time for FF is about 4 sec, and for IE about 15 sec. FF runs much faster too (and uses fewer resources even at startup).

        If this is because FF is built into my OS, then it is not IE's fault, but it stopped the show here! (of course, this is IE6, not IE7 - and the FF I use is actually the Swiftfox variant, w/ AdBlock Plus and NoScript)
        Freebird54
    • Don't worry about this guy! He just likes to stir the pot.

      This person makes such mundane statements on purpose, just to see what kind of passionate reactions he can churn up. Ignore it.
      mwiley_z
    • Let's see . . .

      Because it's a hellava lot better browser!
      sackbut