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Posted on August 26th, 2009 by Barry Collins

Porn collection put people off upgrading to Firefox 3

Laptop pornMozilla’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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48 Responses to “ Porn collection put people off upgrading to Firefox 3 ”

  1. greemble Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Great, you can have ‘private browsing’ for stuff you want private…
    Why not just have an option to not search history & bookmarks?

    No-one else uses my computer, but if I’m searching for something on the net, it’s because I’ve not got it bookmarked or I’ve not found it previously – I find ‘Helpful Suggestions’ simply intrusive and blasted annoying

     
  2. Liam Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    There is that option.
    Tools > Options > Privacy > Location bar

     
  3. Ian R Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    My complaint is the opposite, that FF3 makes you retype every URL you’ve already typed, since you can no longer select the last-entered URL from the dropdown.

     
  4. Michael T. Babcock Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    @Ian I don’t know what you’re talking about, if I type “www.s” in my location bar right now, It pulls up “slashdot.org” as the first result since that’s the last site I went to. I can also drop-down the list of recent sites (running Firefox 3.5.2).

    @greemble: use the search box for searching then.

     
  5. anon Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I haven’t upgraded to FF3 because the new URL bar is just the biggest and most visible symptom of how Firefox is going down the toilet, fast.

    For FF to continue to increase in the numbers of users it has, the Mozilla Foundation has no choice but to chase IE users, as all the savvy users on the web long ago settled on their browser of choice.

    To entice IE users to FF they have had no choice but to make FF “easy to use”, but “easy to use” can mean many things, but in the case of FF it has come to mean dumbing down and hand holding. The URL bar in FF3 is a perfect example of a new feature that came along to capture the users that do not know how to use a piece of software, and will NOT read instructions. FF already had searchable history, searchable bookmarks, and a URL bar that worked. But with FF3 the URL bar stopped behaving as users expect, and features that are already in the browser were duplicated in the URL bar.

    FF3’s URL bar should have been an extension. Maybe Mozilla should have produced a package of FF and hand holding extensions for n00bs, and a package of just the core browser for those that want it.

    Cue people now trying to tell me that there are some workarounds and more bloat that can be added to hide the FF3 URL bar behaviour, and almost make it work how it should…..

     
  6. John S Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    This was a major failure of the team that developed FF3. All they had to do was make it simple for people to revert to the more rational FF2 behavior.

    They made poor choices about the UI, which could have easily been avoided by following the maxim “Don’t fix what’s not broken”

    Developers need to learn a new feature does not make a program better and a new feature that drastically changes the user experience is not progress.

     
  7. Dan Veditz Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    I hated the new URL bar at first, too, but after using it for a week I now find it pretty indispensable. Yes, I could have manually searched my history, but I rarely did and just did a new search on Google. Since I’ve got a high-latency connection from home finding the results locally is much much faster.

     
  8. Kyle Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    What might be/have been a better option would be to enable private bookmarks, something in the html of the bookmark that says “do not display me, I r private”

     
  9. schattenjager Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    It’s actually a very reasonable fear. I’ve never forgotten the experience of helping out a friend with a networking problem, and trying to reach slashdot as a test of the fix. What popped up in IE as a suggestion when I was partway through entering the URL turned out to be a pr0n website that told me a lot more about my friend than I really wanted to know. I turned off the Awesome Bar on FF. And it’s gonna stay off until the sun burns out.

     
  10. Ryan Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Wouldn’t a few minutes in about:config fix this right up? e.g. places.frecency.bookmarkVisitBonus = 0. Don’t forget the Oldbar extension either.

     
  11. Evert Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    I heard someone saying the same thing about Google Chrome shortly after it came out – that the default ‘home’ page revealed a bit too much about your surfing habits.

     
  12. Dave Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    @anon #5: For a lot of us, the new bar is a huge improvement over the old, since the bar now lets me instantly let me browse my history by URL -AND- page title, dramatically improving the speed at which I find what I’m looking for. Effectively, every site I want to access is 2-3 keystrokes away at all times. I don’t have to manage bookmarks or remember URLS. Get Fuzzy, for example, is g , even though G is the 19th character in the URL.

     
  13. Anon Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Much ado…
    Use Tools>Options>Privacy or
    about:config and disable whatever you don’t need. Meh…

     
  14. Jason Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Just clear your history.

     
  15. qwonto Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    @Jason
    Clearing your history doesn’t clear bookmarks.

     
  16. FF Fan Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Sounds like some time needs to be spent in “about:config”. It’s possible to tweak that you know…

     
  17. useOldBar Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Just use the oldbar extension in FF3. The new bar was a huge mistake and I’m surprised only 25% of people won’t upgrade because of it.

     
  18. joey Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    I really Lived the new urlbar and miss it when its not there in a browser. Not even my parents have trouble with it. Actually my mother loves it because she always goes to the same sites. So to me it seems not fair to complain at mozilla when they introduce a new awesome feature which you shy pornlovers can’t handle. Do you also complain when you buy a new car with an open roof instead. of having airco?

     
  19. Mike Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    I like the new location bar. I have no idea what people are complaining about. It was a little bit confusing at first but it works great: you can start typing urls and it’ll autocomplete AND you can type the title of page or keywords in the title or whatever and it finds it.

    Besides, you can disable it pretty easily.

    Everyone complaining has no idea what they’re talking about.

     
  20. John S Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    While a couple posters are correct that this horrible default behavior can be eliminated through the use of about:config and the oldbar extension, those efforts are far beyond the reach of many mozilla users.

    There should have been a simple checkbox in preferences labeled something like “Disable the Awful Bar”. Instead the developers made it extremely difficult for the non-technical user to get the behavior they reasonable expect.

    The developers really dropped the ball on this item, in addition to the performance problems caused by the overuse of SQLite.

     
  21. greemble Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    “Tools > Options > Privacy > Location bar”
    I’m sure this will get me flamed for being stupid – but it don’t exist in the FF I’m running (3.0.13 Can’t update, some of my add-ons wont work if I do). No Location bar option
    Have done the about:config option Wow, so user-friendly
    /sarcasm

    @ Michael T. Babcock
    I do use the search bar

    @Mike – I know a ‘feature’ that I don’t want when I see it.
    Seems a large number of other don’t want it either and will simply not upgrade rather than have to search for a way to disable it. That is the point

     
  22. kraM Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Hi,

    I don’t think that features are a bad idea, but I think that a feature, that dramatically changes one of the most used parts of a program, should *easily* be configured in a way, the user likes it to behave. about:config is fine, but most users do not even know it exists. Completely disable any completion in the privacy settings dialog? …

    I “fixed” my ff3 using vimperator; so I’m a great vi fan and vimperator behaves like I personally really like ff3 to behave. Do not complete for itself, but do completion on pressing tab.

    Safe browsing? Sorry, WTF, nobody needs something like that if a part/tool of a product is configurable in an easy way with all aspects of that part being configurable! Some tools use something like enhanced configuration. You don’t want to bloat ff3 configuration dialog? You want to stick with about:config? Why not a single button with a GUI which enables enhanced configuration, without the need to google for what this or that in about:config means?…

    It’s like when you program some code… You abstract problems until you have a single problem, which is programmed in a single short class or function. Then the next problem, …

    Why not making program configuration like program code?

    If I look at what ff could be in a near future, it’s the same – in my opinion – error/fault, that KDE does.

    If someone wants his browser to look like IE, he should use IE. If someone wants a desktop which looks nearly exactly like Windows, he should use Windows.

    Open source software is, or was, or better should be as free as the licenses are.
    The user should have the possibility to feel free to configure *any* aspect of the tool the way he likes it to behave!, especially if all features are present to exactly do that.

    Just my 2 cents…

     
  23. martien Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    since the FF3.5 version now has an option to choose how the location bar behaves (without the need of tweaking config files), I do think the argument about a now outdated 3.0 version is pointless.

    The author also goes right to the conclusion that the only thing people hide must be porn. That seems quite a shortcut.

    And I must ask : who the hell is dumb enough to think you can hide your porn habits just by bookmarking them in sub-sub-subfolders no-one’s gonna ever try to open ?

     
  24. V.K. Lee Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 4:02 am

    I tried FF3 also. The thing that put me off was that opening the browser sometimes takes 15 seconds or longer. Google the keywords: firefox 3 slow start. I’m not alone.

     
  25. ffeineandsugar Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 6:37 am

    FF3 is a nice browser, but I’ll stick w/Opera 10. Thanks anyways. Opera just seems to have been more thoughtful with their features, and this brouhaha is just one more example.

     
  26. Richard Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 8:24 am

    But FF3 is open source right? So why aren’t you guys/gals delving into the code and changing it to suit your needs? After all, we’re often told that this is one of the principal advantages of OSS. Or is my suspicion correct, there’s actually only a very tiny proportion of the user base capable of understanding the code, and a fair proportion of those will be hackers?

     
  27. WMDKitty Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 8:39 am

    And how hard is it to go into Tools > Options (etc)? It’s not rocket science, and anyone who can’t do something that simple has no business being on the internet in the first place!

     
  28. a Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Ctrl + Shift + P

     
  29. andy Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 9:33 am

    I think the problem is with the users – if you are scared of people accessing your porn bookmarks, don’t leave them on your computer – store them somewhere on the cloud, for instance, http://pinboard.in has the ability to set private bookmarks that nobody but you can see.

     
  30. juk Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    I think the solution is pretty clear.

    “Tools > Options > Privacy > Location bar”

    Just make the default option be “Nothing”.

    It will make the newbs who cant configure the browser happy.

     
  31. Steve Cassidy Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    All the nerds here miss the point. The people trapped by this nasty trick are inherently not gonna go back to their friends and ask for this or that cute hack, because their private surfing is PRIVATE. That means, they don’t discuss it – period. The result of this kind of privacy failure in UI design is not that users magically transform into hackers to safeguard their online peccadilloes – it’s that they start clicking on “SECURE YOUR HISTORY” links and getting infected, because the black-hat guys know very well how the embarrassment factor operates, and have wasted no time in slipping into the gap.

    “it’s not rocket science” isn’t a usable observation: itjust means that you’re a very smart guy, and everyone else isn’t. So, smart guy, to help everyone else, your next move is…?

     
  32. Daniel Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    For those of us who use the internet for news, games, IT forums and product reviews only, this is not a problem…

     
  33. Tim Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    i don’t know if firefox 3.5 came out before chrome but chrome has the incognito window for that purpose. Well – not for hiding porn, per se, but, say you want to access your banking site or other very private matters why have the URL stored in history and displayed for anyone who uses the computer?

     
  34. Saint Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    This is why people hate google chrome in the office also :)

     
  35. Chris Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Porn is the easiest thing to find on the net. Why does someone have to bookmark it? I don’t get it. As for bookmarks and history in general, I use neither and store neither since pretty much anything I care about I can recall how to find.

     
  36. Nick Dunn Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    My goodness, people, get a grip. If you’ve got something to hide, you’re probably doing something wrong.

    The predictive address bar is the single-most reason I choose FF over Safari.

     
  37. Steve Cassidy Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Daniel, clearly you have never used the internet for job-hunting, then, while still in your old job…

     
  38. who wait what Says:
    August 28th, 2009 at 6:01 am

    The new bar was clearly an awful thing to foist upon the world, with little besides tweaks and hacks to curb it’s unwanted behavior. The simple fact is this: It was forced down everyone’s throats.

    For you odd ducks who don’t surf porn, well, good for you? Don’t act like those who despise this not-so-awesome bar are wrong in doing so. Things of this nature should be opt-in, or at the least “hey here’s a preview of how AWESOME it can be…for now we go back to the experience you have come to expect.”

    I was tempted to downgrade, but instead found the old location bar addon, thankfully. If you ask me the awesome bar should have been the optional extension and apparently many feel the same.

    Steve Cassidy, good on you for having common sense. A rare commodity.

    To WMDKitty and other apparent idiots posting about the options setting for the failbar: It didn’t exist when this version 3 hit. You may leave the internet now, thanks for playing and so long.

     
  39. confused Says:
    August 28th, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Do people really bookmark porn? with all the free porn out there do you really have to book mark it. It’s like a real life relationship, keep going to the same place, it gets old. Throw in the occasional tranny-dwarf-amputee site and baby, this relationship is a sizzling.

     
  40. David Wright Says:
    August 31st, 2009 at 10:55 am

    The awesome bar is great, I find it indepspensible.

    As for looking for a new job on the works computer… The systems administrator and the big wigs probably have access to your browsing history anyway, so it doesn’t make a lot of difference…

    Same with browsing porn on a works computer, how dumb are these people.

    If you are really worried, clear the cache, cookies etc. before exiting the browser and don’t bookmark sites you don’t want others to see…

    Mozilla shouldn’t have to worry about protecting users from their own stupidity… We have enough problems with the Nanny State. Let natural selection takes its course!

     
  41. Steve Cassidy Says:
    August 31st, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    it’s not about bookmarking it, confused: it’s about the software independently deciding that you go to site X a lot, bookmark or no bookmark…

     
  42. Travis Says:
    September 6th, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Anything that automatically bookmarks something for you is annoying. If you choose to bookmark it then you’ll do so, but you don’t need some piece of software telling you what to bookmark or not to bookmark. That being said I had no idea this many people were upset about porn on their machine, LOL.

     
  43. Gareth Says:
    September 10th, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Whaaaaaat!? I find the new location bar VERY useful. If I’m going to look up questionable content, I’ll do it from another browser. The new location bar makes it very simple to just type in a topic and have all your history and bookmarks that are related display up there. It’s great! It’s not the software’s fault you’re typing in something porn related and you have a bunch of porno bookmarks. It’s just advancing it’s capabilities. A NORMAL user would find the addition extra search features infinitely useful.

     
  44. Byaregn Says:
    September 25th, 2009 at 5:42 am

    Alt + F4 gets rid of the pesky location bar. I think it sucks and dread to think of how FF might be in the future!

     
  45. wizby Says:
    October 11th, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    wow, not a geeky techie and don’t understand half of some previous comments. I’ve never looked for porn on web nor had privelege of being paid by work to do my own stuff, but it’s been really instructive reading all this and knowing what not to do in future, cheers!

     
  46. kino-klad Says:
    October 31st, 2009 at 2:26 am

    смотреть онлайн скачать на высокой скорости

     
  47. Adam Says:
    February 27th, 2010 at 3:50 am

    EXACTLY why I’m a fan of user-groups ;) I have mine. Everyone else can use “Guest” :)

    Well….not really….but more so, because I have banking info, passwords, etc….all out in the open on my account (yay for auto complete)….so access to my account, they got access to all my networks and finances :P

     
  48. Joesph Gorneault Says:
    August 31st, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Pretty Damn cool ! I would say.

     

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