Impact Mozilla Yields Instructive Findings for Firefox, and OSS Overall

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 07, 2009

In late December, Mozilla announced the winner of its Impact Mozilla campaign, which was a far reaching effort to get community members, including new members such as previously uninvolved MBA students, to contribute ideas for how to improve Mozilla's marketing efforts. The winners of the competition were Phani Kumar Vadrevu and Uttam Byragoni of India, for their "Fox For All" marketing plan, which, in addition to proposals, includes a number of surprising statistics about usage of the Firefox browser. The Impact Mozilla campaign strikes me as a good idea for many types of open source projects, which often have less-than-ideal marketing surrounding them. Here's a look under the hood of the campaign and the Fox For All plan.

Phani Kumar Vadrevu and Uttam Byragoni based their winning Fox For All plan on online research of usage patterns for Firefox involving 985 respondents. Among the findings:

  1. 866 users had Firefox installed on their machines, but 356 had stopped using it.
  2. Of those 356 users, 337 had never installed a single extension!
  3. Of 124 users who currently had Firefox extensions loaded, a whopping 93 listed the extensions as their primary reason for using the browser.
  4. Of the 124 users who had extensions installed, only 23 had 6 or more loaded.

The results of the Fox For All survey were slightly skewed because most of the users were engineering students, but the overall finding I agree with: Extensions--a primary reason to use the browser--have lower penetration than they should have. The Fox For All plan goes on to suggest fostering development of add-ons, and especially personalization-focused add-ons. It also suggests separating the idea-generation part of producing new add-ons from a developer-driven-only model.

That last idea, and the general idea of new ways to foster extensions, should cause the folks at Mozilla and Google to think long and hard. The open source browsers are leading the way in browser innovation, and Firefox's overwhelming advantage lies in its useful universe of extensions. Google, as we've covered, has extensions on tap for its Chrome browser. It makes sense for both companies to subsidize the development of useful extensions, and get idea-generators who are users--not developers--to drive extension creation.

Moreover, many open source projects could benefit from better marketing, including the kinds of studies of usage patterns that traditional marketers often do. Here, with Impact Mozilla, Mozilla has laid out how to go about this in an exemplary way. You can find the 10 Finalist proposals from Impact Mozilla here.