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May 23rd, 2013

Poll: Firefox Does Not Need Fewer Options

You may remember that back on March 22, Christine Hall penned an article here on FOSS Force concerning worries expressed by Alex Limi, a project design strategist at Mozilla, over configuration issues with Firefox. It seems that Mr. Limi expressed concerns on his blog over the fact that was possible for a user to “render the browser unusable to most people, right in the main settings.”

Ms. Hall agreed that it was certainly possible to “break” Firefox while attempting to configure it, but expressed concerns that the Mozilla development crew would overreact by taking control out of the hands of the user. Such actions she deemed unnecessary and explained why:

“I’m not too sure that people go around breaking things all the time in Firefox. In my experience, non Geek types are pretty timid about clicking on things when they’re not sure of themselves. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the people I know who used a word processor or a browser for years without learning some very basic functions, simply because they were afraid to take the risk of clicking on something to see what would happen. I think most people who would be inclined to break Firefox are users like me, who are capable of fixing what we break, even if that means going online and begging on the forums for some help.”

Most of you agreed with Ms. Hall, if the results of the “Firefox Configuration Poll” we conducted alongside her article is any indication. The poll asked the question, “Do you think the Firefox browser offers too many configuration choices for most users?”

Since the poll only ran within the article on the subject, we assume that most if not all of those taking the poll would be familiar with the issues involved. As answers we offered simply “Yes,” “No” or “Other.” Those choosing the later option were able to write another answer (or comment) into a text box. Multiple answers were not allowed, and visitors were restricted by IP address to taking the poll only once every 30 days.

193 people took the poll, with an overwhelming majority of 85%, or 165 votes, choosing to vote “No.” Only 10% of the votes cast, or 20 total votes, voted “Yes.” “Other” came in at 4%, or 8 votes.

[yop_poll id=”6″]

The reasoning of the “Other” voters might shed some light on why the results of this poll were so lopsided in favor of the current configuration options. Here we see that our readers understood the Mozilla developer’s concerns, but thought there were better ways to engineer around these concerns than by simply removing options:

  • “Stick the problematic ones under ‘Advanced Options'”
  • “No, they just need to add one easily discoverable option to ‘restore default settings'”
  • “Adding warnings/explanation would be enough”
  • “This question makes no sense, all configuration items were not born equal”
  • “Hide under advanced option”
  • “Not ‘too many configuration’ but unnecessary configurations for most of the users.”
  • “I like it, but Firefox is cross-platform, and people are really really stupid.”
  • “Defaults are not useful to me. I need the config file.”

Mozilla Firefox logoAlthough we’re still developing our polling methodology, there are several differences in the way we conducted this poll that are notable from polls done before or after. Up until this poll, all of our polls were open for a period of approximately two weeks. For this poll we experimented by creating a poll with no end date, and only closed the poll today in anticipation of this article. As the poll began on March 22 (a configuration error has the poll displaying a start date of March 6), this means the poll was open for about 62 days.

The long running time of the poll, combined with the way we’d configured voting, made it possible for people to vote a total of two times. However, that possibility doesn’t appear to have impacted the voting to any meaningful degree as the “No” votes had a considerable lead throughout the polling process.

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[yop_poll id=”9″]

Towards the end of April we included a poll inside an article on the use of Apple’s QuickTime on the Smithsonian Institution’s website. Although the poll ran for a full two-weeks, only 14 people chose to take it. However, the poll deals with an important issue, so we thought we’d pass the results on to you.

The “Open Standards & Government” poll asked the question: “Should government agencies be required to use open standards when available?” The possible answers were “Yes,” “No” and “Other.” In this poll, which ran from April 25 to May 9, 13 people (93%) voted “Yes,” with one “No” vote and no “Other” votes.

2 comments to Poll: Firefox Does Not Need Fewer Options