Too Many Updates

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading all the feedback that comes in through Hendrix, in the mozilla.feedback newsgroup.

One theme I have seen is that lots of people are fed up with the frequency and intrusiveness, as they see it, of Firefox and Thunderbird updates.

I really can’t stand being nudged none stop as away to prob me to update
my Firefox browser. Is their Anyway I can disarm this as I am strongly
considering going back to Internet Explorer. No offense to who generated
this idea, but it is brutal.

Why so many updates or is Mozilla gathering in formation on us?

do you really have to release an update every two or three days?

this is ridiculous. how about you TEST the software until it’s stable
and not make everyone upgrade the browser every 3 days.

im starting to not want to use FF because of the merciless update structure.

Updates and more updates and more…

what’s the point of this one exactly?

you keep sending me these stupid updates. i dont want updates. i dont
like something that interrupts my gaming and screws it up. i want an
option to stop all notifications. if i need an update i can look for it

I am so tired of updates every week. This is as bad as Microsoft and
it’s constant updates. If you can’t get it right the first time, give it
up. I can see updates here and there, but every week is ridiculous.
Switching to Safari.

I am tired of the constant stream of Firefox updates. It didn’t used
to be this way.

If you can’t get it right any more, then it’s time for me to switch to a
different browser.

Next time I see an update, I am changing.

The reason I started using your product many years ago was to get away
from popups and intrusive web sites and browsers. Now that is what you
have become. And you keep adding crap daily. I am off the find the new
product of what you use to be.

I understand that you are trying to provide a product that is bug free
and as “cool” as you can make it, but having to update twice a month or
even once a month is a pain. I am also a frequent deployer in the
military and quite often we can’t get fast enough internet speeds to
download the update. It just seems excessive. Starts making me wonder
how good a product is if you have to send a better version every couple
of weeks.

Firefox updates are too frequent!

You think that’s a lot? All of those were posted in the last 24 hours. And we only had 100 feedback in that time.

I don’t think we’re doing enough to explain to users why these updates are important.

How about a snippet on the start page which simply says:

Why does Firefox update itself so often?

and which leads to a page which explains?

And we should move to silent updates by default, a la Chrome. As long as we don’t abuse the privilege by installing unrelated software, then I think this is a reasonable extension of the trust users put in us when they install the software in the first place.

Incidentally, the installation of unrelated software is another pet hate of many Hendrix users. The Yahoo! bundle in the Flash updater annoys a lot of people. But commonly, they blame us – either for the Yahoo stuff, or for McAfee, or for something else. They think it’s us who is doing it. How can we avoid getting the blame for this bad business practice on the part of other companies?

21 thoughts on “Too Many Updates

  1. I think we’ll keep getting this until it’s completely transparent: update silently, no restart required, no extensions broken. That’s quite a tall order though.

  2. Try putting out an official announcement about which updates are yours and which are not. Make it clearer to people what kind of updates you provide and what kind of updates you do not provide in your installers and updates.

  3. I think there is an issue that major update notifications seem to happen about a week before another planned (minor) update, so it’s quite common to get 2 update notifications in quick succession. There may be good reasons to do this, but it’s not obvious what those are.

    I think it would be an interesting exercise to look at the update notifications dates over the last 12 months, and work out if an average user (who may not get an update notification immediately because they’re out of the office, away on holiday, may defer major updates for good reasons, etc) is getting more update notifications than you’d expect.

  4. I bet the stupid “you have been updated” page which opens after every minor update is a major pain point. Barring that, silent updates would fix this once and for all.

    > I don’t think we’re doing enough to explain to users why these updates are important.
    Wrong outlook. The users don’t give a **** about why updates are important. They are annoying and that’s all they care about. Given the choice between secure and not annoying, 99% would chose the latter. And you can’t really blame them.

    About the plugins, either link to the direct no-bundle installer or don’t link them at all. Or work something out with Adobe, like Chrome did. (Not as extreme as including Flash built-in, but certainly avoid the crap; right now you tell users “update your Flash” and send them to the page with the bundle installer — half of it is your fault in a way)

  5. I’m largely echoing what you and others have said already, but:

    1. Move to silent updates, and soon. Chrome does it very well indeed. IE users get them as part of Windows Update (so IE doesn’t bug them directly). Difficult, yes, but certainly a goal worth pursuing.

    2. Automatic (and silent) updates of plug-ins and extensions. In the case of 3rd party plug-ins, try to make it possible to directly download and install an updated version without all the extra commercial crap.

    3. It’s not about communicating why you’re updating. The person sat in front of the browser really doesn’t care. They’re just annoyed that you interrupted them. Again.

  6. personally I started complaining about this in the 2.0 days. Silent updates with no restart is the only way to avoid update fatigue. Literally every time (usually 2-3 times/week) I get on my wifes computer there is an update pending (adobe, firefox, apple, microsoft.) At the end of the day most people don’t apply these updates including myself. It is just too disruptive.

  7. I’m almost sure that the majority of those updates are add-on updates. Some add-on developers earn money by putting ads on their ‘you have updated xy page’ so that’s a strong incentive to update the add-on often. Very often.

  8. Why did you write this? Mozilla is going to silent updates, and the discussion has already been had.

    You do need to come down hard on Adobe, though. They put you through a pain, which includes installing an uploader (extension?) before they will update Flash. AND attempt to sneak still other junk onto your computer.

  9. I think I’m mostly repeating what has been said already, but I think the solutions are either or some combination of: a) do less updates (anything less than an actively-exploited remotely-execute-code flaw be left until the next 6-weekly update, or sync up with Patch Tuesday or something) and b) make the updates get in the way less (which is underway for Firefox 4) – so users don’t have to know about the updates, they just get updated when the browser is closed anyway.

    I’m fairly sure the people complaining about this stuff do not want more explanations. If you install 20 or 30 internet apps (browsers, media players, VOIP, IM, along with add-ons, plugins, toolbars for each), you get “updates” pretty much every time you turn the computer on – some are actually adverts for more software, some are major-upgrade type prompts, some are security things. The updates for each app pretty much all look different and work differently.

    Nobody wants to also read explanations of all or any of that stuff – they just want it to get out of the way so they can actually use their computer. I would think trying to get Firefox to be the one app that they understand and update is fairly hopeless…

    If people actually understood this stuff, they would probably uninstall much of the stuff they have – pretty much every time I help someone with their computer, I find they have installed a whole load of software without meaning to or without understanding what it did.

  10. I don’t think there is a way to please everyone here. If Firefox switched to silent updates, the person who mentioned his gaming being interrupted by the popup would then complain about his gaming bandwidth being diminished by Firefox downloading updates in the background. And of course the conspiracy theorists would have a field day.

    I would second the poster above who stated that the updates are probably due to add-ons rather than Firefox itself (remember that add-ons right now need to restart the browser) and these complaints will probably fall significantly as restartless add-ons become more common.

    P.S. “Next time I see an update, I am changing.” Seriously?

  11. When I get a Firefox update, I immediately think “Wow, they’re really looking out for me and issuing patches as fast as they can!” Microsoft has their patch-Tuesday which leaves us vulnerable for longer than necessary.

    I do agree that it would be better to communicate to the users why they should update. Something like “This patch will fix the following security and usability issues” and then summarize them with a link to the release notes. In other words, people care more about the reason BEFORE the patching than AFTER the patching.

  12. Let them pick a time of day and day of week for running updates. If they are the ones who decided to interrupt themselves ast 4:50 every last friday of the month they might remember it’s not your fault.

    Utilize the new door hanger UI and event history to less annoyingly inform them of urgent updates.

    If an update patches a super critical bug/exploit that happens to affect other browsers as well, in your short description boldly point out which other browsers have not do anything yet to address the issue.

    For flash installation somebody should do a nice friendly step-by-step video of how to install flash with emphasis on how Adobe will try to trick you into installing additional useless software. Have an optional 2nd video after this for people interested in how to avoid unnecessary, risky, computer-slowing hardware.
    We need to EDUCATE THE USERS. Help them to feel smarter. If even just 10% more of them had a clue it would be a huge improvement.

    There should be an extension that lets the user choose to submit a list of every plugin and addon they have installed and a log of how long it takes their brosers to start. Then then some volunteers can dig through this data and come up with an official list of add-ons and plugins Mozilla suggests should be uninstalled.

    If the browser itself can detect it takes forever to start, before the user has a chance to say “firefox is effin slo” firefox can agree with them and suggest submitting a profile and later in the day someone (an automated script) will e-mail them with tips on how to speed up their browser. Some of the worst offenders should be immediately pointed out and ready to be removed should the user start down this road.

  13. Addons should be clearly marked as “actively maintained” with an “active user community”. Users should be informed that addons that are not actively maintained could STOP WORKING AT ANY MOMENT.

    It should be stressed that mozilla did not create the addon.

    But there should be official “Mozilla Maintained” addons that will always still work after an update.

    Silent updates should never break MozillaMaintained addons or addons that have earned the title of actively maintained.

    The addons site should have search filters to only show Actively Maintained addons.

  14. My take on this is: “You can’t cure user stupidity.”

    Frequent updates mean (or SHOULD mean) a more stable, secure program. Users that complain about this either don’t know or don’t care about security/stability.

    “The average user” wants programs that do everything perfectly and without bugs. They don’t understand that neither the creators nor testers of software are not perfect. Bugs will be missed and will (AND SHOULD) be patched as soon as possible.

  15. “Incidentally, the installation of unrelated software is another pet hate of many Hendrix users. The Yahoo! bundle in the Flash updater annoys a lot of people. But commonly, they blame us – either for the Yahoo stuff, or for McAfee, or for something else. They think it’s us who is doing it. How can we avoid getting the blame for this bad business practice on the part of other companies?”

    My opinion: take the hard-line and blacklist future installations of those extensions until they make them opt-in rather than opt-out. That shit is awful.

  16. Well, there is (at least in SeaMonkey) a checkbox to enable/disable updates, and I use it. I check for updates when it suits me, and I install a new nightly every day, not as soon as it’s been published but when I’m ready for it. Similarly, rather than having an automatic periodic check for extension upgrades, I sort the AMO page by “Last update date” and check it maybe two or three times a day. I must be crazy (if “crazy” means “not like most people”). ;-) But unlike many of the responders above, I certainly do NOT want my browser to update itself behind my back, without my say-so and without telling me. Too often I’ve seen both browser and extensions getting randomly broken after a browser upgrade. If I know when the upgrade happened, I can put two and two together, and downgrade if the new build is really too much broken.

  17. I’ve gotten quite a few add-on update notices recently.

    Are add-on update notifications confused with firefox update notifications?
    Is there any way to tell? (does the feedback come with a list of add-ons installed, or is that private?)

    Maybe part of the issue is that firefox updates trigger add-on authors to update their software, causing another wave of update notifications.

    Maybe there should be an option to only check for add-on updates during a firefox update? (Or if this is what it does if add-ons updates checkbox is off, that needs to be explained.)

  18. > How about a snippet on the start page which … explains?

    People aren’t complaining because they want to understand why. Believe me, they don’t. This is especially true if their complaint contains stuff like “Why, in the name of all that is sane, WHY, WHY, WHY?” If that sounds to you like they want to know why, you have completely failed to understand basic human psychology. If they wanted to know why, they would say something more like, “By the way, I’m curious about why the browser needs to be updated so often.” None of the comments above have that kind of tone. These people aren’t interested in knowing why. They’re frustrated and annoyed.

    They are complaining because something got in their face too many times. Explanation would be counterproductive. The solution is to make it get in their face less, not more. So, for example, you know how when the browser updates it automatically shows a web page that says “you’ve been updated”? This is in the user’s face. It’s not wanted. It’s annoying. Kill it with fire.

    Also, when the browser is started, it always asks the user whether they want to look for updates to their plugins. This is in the user’s face. Get rid of it. Put in a preference for whether to install plugin updates or not, and make the default something other than “Ask”. (Probably the default should be something like only after major browser updates.) The user does not want to be bugged about this Every Single Time.

    Oh, that thing that’s always bugging the user to upgrade the Flash plugin, and then it links to a page that apparently does not actually provide any way to do that — you know that thing? Kill it. Kill it fast, kill it hard, drive a stake through its heart, and make sure it never comes back. If the browser could actually provide a convenient way for people to actually obtain and install an update to the plugin, then there might be some point to that, but just bugging them that it’s up to date all the time and linking to a site that isn’t trusted by default (and probably shouldn’t be) and that (even if the user adds an exception) does not install Flash plugin updates but instead installs a lame unwanted useless download-manager extension, is just totally unwarranted.

    And, of course, it is also worth considering that maybe browser updates really do come out too often. Having new security issues patched within 45 minutes doesn’t do much good if the users all start turning off updates out of annoyance. Although, as others have indicated, if the updates could be more transparent, that would significantly reduce the annoyance factor. In an ideal situation, application updates would be handled automatically by the OS and would take place in the background (running out of a system process), and it wouldn’t matter whether a user is logged in or not, and restarts would not be required (including application restarts; the user could continue using the old version until they close the window and then automatically have the new version whenever they open a new one) and so on and so forth. Obviously, the operating systems a lot of people are using don’t support all that, so some compromises have to be made.

    But rule one for making software non-annoying is “Don’t bug the user.” This means, among other things, don’t pop up a dialog that tells the user something and asks them to click a button to proceed. “An update is available. Do you want to install it?” That’s annoying. It bugs the user.

    The updates themselves are not the problem. Bugging the user is the problem.

  19. I think better solution will be opt-in (for automatic update) instead of opt-out. YEs, Security is important. But How many people really do that “nasty” thing ? For normal, disciplined surfer its not that risky to ignore that high risk update.

    Addon/plugin auto update should be strictly avoided. Echofon released new version which fails on linux, earlier there were many addons tht were not supposed to be updated or “I liked that old stuff” kind of. Addons are addons. They are extras. An option for auto update shd be fine for others.