Huge if true: If you show people articles saying that Firefox is faster than Chrome, they'll believe it

Mozillians formulate 'prime' directive for browser's comeback following psychological study

Mozilla has found a way to make its Firefox browser feel faster without any engineering effort: tell people that it's faster than the competition.

In a research paper released on Wednesday, current and former researchers from the public benefit company, with the help of a Cornell academic, describe their effort to understand why Google's Chrome browser is so widely used "given that the performance of various browsers is rated as similar by industry reviewers."

In their paper titled, "'This Browser is Lightning Fast': The Effects of Message Content on Perceived Performance," Jess Hohenstein from Cornell, and Mozillans present and past Bill Selman, Gemma Petrie, Jofish Kaye, and Rebecca Weiss ask, "why is one browser experiencing much wider usage than others?"

Chrome has about 64 per cent of the global browser market share across all platforms, according to Stat Counter. And the second-place position of Apple's Safari, at roughly 19 per cent of the market, is due in large part to the restrictions Apple places on iOS browsers. Firefox currently has almost four per cent of the global browser market, about a third of a percentage point more than Microsoft's Edge.

Rather than looking into Google's faster release cadence for Chrome, which forced Mozilla to accelerate its Firefox release schedule in 2011, the larger number of features in Chrome releases, organizational turmoil and missteps, talent departures and layoffs, Google's ability to promote Chrome on its search page, or corporate resource disparity, Mozilla's user-experience researchers decided to test various hypotheses about how people respond to "priming."

Priming, the paper explains, is a psychological phenomenon whereby people use the most immediately accessible information to make decisions. The researchers' supposition is that recent media exposure about a specific subject can alter people's judgements and opinions about that topic.

"We believe that previous research presents an opportunity to investigate the ability to contend with a dominant brand by priming users with messages about another brand to change their perceptions regarding performance," the paper explains.

To test their hypotheses, they looked at how 1,495 people perceived the performance of Firefox and Chrome, with and without reading a browser-related article beforehand.

Participants were shown one of three articles from popular news websites, about either self-driving cars, Firefox's user interface, or Firefox performance.


Mozilla Firefox keeps cookies kosher with quarantine scheme, 86s third-party cookies in new browser build


Going into the test, people overall tended to view Chrome as faster than Firefox (~39 per cent to ~31 per cent). While the researchers noted that many participants brought their own strong brand preferences, priming participants had an effect that overcame the inertia of that affinity.

"When respondents read one of the priming articles, we saw a prevalence of the priming effect over brand preferences, providing support for the hypothesis that Firefox is faster after reading about Firefox improvements," the researchers said.

The UX boffins note that given Google's advertising market power, its coverage in the media, and its constant marketing messaging about Chrome's speed, they're not surprised that people assume Chrome is the fastest browser by default. But they claim that users who have been primed with an article about Mozilla Firefox are more likely to rate it as faster.

"This finding suggests that engaging with the media to present software as high-performing is an important step in influencing users’ perceptions of that browser," they conclude.

Marketing matters, apparently. ®

Other stories you might like

  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading
  • Cloud security unicorn cuts 20% of staff after raising $1.3b
    Time to play blame bingo: Markets? Profits? Too much growth? Russia? Space aliens?

    Cloud security company Lacework has laid off 20 percent of its employees, just months after two record-breaking funding rounds pushed its valuation to $8.3 billion.

    A spokesperson wouldn't confirm the total number of employees affected, though told The Register that the "widely speculated number on Twitter is a significant overestimate."

    The company, as of March, counted more than 1,000 employees, which would push the jobs lost above 200. And the widely reported number on Twitter is about 300 employees. The biz, based in Silicon Valley, was founded in 2015.

    Continue reading
  • Talos names eight deadly sins in widely used industrial software
    Entire swaths of gear relies on vulnerability-laden Open Automation Software (OAS)

    A researcher at Cisco's Talos threat intelligence team found eight vulnerabilities in the Open Automation Software (OAS) platform that, if exploited, could enable a bad actor to access a device and run code on a targeted system.

    The OAS platform is widely used by a range of industrial enterprises, essentially facilitating the transfer of data within an IT environment between hardware and software and playing a central role in organizations' industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) efforts. It touches a range of devices, including PLCs and OPCs and IoT devices, as well as custom applications and APIs, databases and edge systems.

    Companies like Volvo, General Dynamics, JBT Aerotech and wind-turbine maker AES are among the users of the OAS platform.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022