Porn collection put people off upgrading to Firefox 3

26 Aug 2009

Mozilla's Security team has disclosed a very interesting piece of research which suggests people refused to upgrade to the latest version of Firefox because they were afraid the browser would expose their, ahem, private collection of websites.

In May, the company decided to have one last attempt at persuading the people on Firefox 2 to move up to Firefox 3, by hitting users of the old version with a pop-up that prompted them to upgrade. Those who declined were invited to fill out a questionnaire, asking them to reveal why they didn't want the latest software.

The number one reason for not upgrading was the new location bar, and the fact that it delved into people's bookmark collections to suggest sites as they typed. No fewer than 25% of Firefox 3 refuseniks cited this as the reason they wouldn't upgrade. In fact, almost all of the people who provided feedback had tried Firefox 3, didn't like what they saw, and headed back to Firefox 2.

"When we expanded the capabilities of the location bar to search against all history and bookmarks in Firefox 3, a lot of people contacted us to say that they had certain bookmarks they didn't really want to have displayed," Firefox's principal designer, Alex Faaborg, tactfully explains on the Mozilla Blog of Metrics.

"In some cases users had intentionally hidden these bookmarks in deep hierarchies of folders, somewhat similar to how one might hide a physical object. Having something from your previous browsing displayed to someone else who is using your computer (or even worse) to a large audience of people as you are giving a presentation, is really one of the most embarrassing things that Firefox can do to you."

There's little doubt, then, that Firefox 3 had caused more than its fair share of domestic showdowns, as unsuspecting partners accidentally stumbled across sites that were previously buried in a folder called something like "Dave's really boring bookmarks, nothing to see here".

No wonder Mozilla hastily introduce a Private Browsing mode in Firefox 3.5...

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