Upgrading a Firefox 1.0.7 user

A friend told me she was unable to login to hotmail using Firefox anymore, getting some warning about not being a supported browser. She also had similar problems with Netflix. We’d recently released new updates on both Firefox 2.x and Firefox 3.0.x, so I stopped by her house to figure out what was going on, just in case…

Sure enough, we could easily reproduce the problems, so I started investigating. “hmmm… wonder what version she is using?


Ahhhhhhh!! A few minutes later I had installed FF3.0.5 over her existing FF1.0.7 installation.
Lessons learnt:

  • Firefox1.0.7 works just fine on PPC based Mac OSX 10.5.5. It had never crashed for her, not once.
  • A pave-over install of FF3.0.5 over FF1.0.7 works just fine; history and home page were correctly handled in the pave-over install and worked perfectly. I didn’t check bookmarks, because she never uses them, preferring to use URLbar history instead.
  • The amount of websites that still work with really old browsers is quite impressive. Obviously, new functionality might not be visible/usable, but having a website gracefully fallback in functionality so it still does *something* reasonable on older browsers is tricky to do, and I was impressed by the number of sites that made that effort.

“Oh, thanks for fixing that – but whats changed in this new version?”. Oh boy – whats changed between FF1.0.7 and FF3.0.5? Honestly, I didn’t know where to start. Tabs? Memory improvements? JS performance improvements? Awesome bar? Phishing protection? …? After a brief hesitation, I decided to only describe one improvement: how the browser can now check for new updates automatically, and showed her where this was set in preferences, so she should never be out-of-date like this again.

Heading home, thinking about it further, I still think that was a good choice, but it got me wondering what other people would choose. So, I’m curious – if you had to list just one “best new feature” since FF1.0.7, what would you choose?

27 thoughts on “Upgrading a Firefox 1.0.7 user”

  1. Firefox had tabs in 1.0.7, so those would not be a new feature for your friend. If she uses URL history instead of bookmarks, then she’d probably be very interested in seeing how the Awesome bar works.

  2. I’d say the so-called awesomebar, though she’ll see this soon enough since she relies on location bar history. If it had only been an upgrade to Fx 2, I’d have said the fastback feature.

  3. “best” is a difficult challenge. I think that a functioning update system is the most important improvement for the health of the web and the safety of Firefox users. That’s a pretty high bar to top.

    I think that the awesomebar is probably the most valuable end-user improvement since Firefox 1.

    There were some other really important improvements though. Firefox 1 didn’t ship with anything decent for migration on Mac, so getting a decent profile migration from Safari and MacIE were huge for that group of users.

    Session Restore, which came along in Firefox 2 was pretty big. I think it was a real differentiator that I just couldn’t live without. (a useful Safe Mode also really helped here, but it’s less often needed.)

    Spell Checking also kicks ass and I just couldn’t go back to a browser without spell checking. I think that was also Firefox 2.

    Finally, I think the move to sqlite storage has been pretty huge in preventing dataloss problems that plagued Firefox 1. That’s fixing a bug more than adding a new capability, but it’s still important.

    Gosh, that’s already a pretty huge list and it doesn’t include phishing and malware protection, full-page zooming, web application protocol support, download pause and resume, and a whole bunch of other features I really can’t go without.

    We’ve done a lot of good since Firefox 1, but Firefox 1 was no slouch either with it’s awesome (for its time) tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking, browser profile migration, support for add-ons, find in page toolbar, integrated web search — all features mostly unknown to the mainstream and not commonplace in just about all the browsers.

    – A

  4. From time to time I’m also encounting Firefox 1.0.x users… And I always mention the automatic update system as the most important new feature, and enhanced security as the second one.

  5. The biggest one from a user’s perspective has to be the Awesomebar. Following that, the fact that it no longer prompts for closing each window with multiple tabs if you quit and you’ve set it to restore your tabs from last time on starting.

    Yes, the SSL changes, the anti-phishing, etc., are all important, but they don’t affect most users’ day-to-day experience.

  6. Personally I like the major usability improvements — both in “look and feel”; and how some actions, like addon installing, bookmark management, looking up history, etc., are simply easier to do. So I like how easy to use Fx3 is!

  7. It was probably good to mention automatic updates because that would reassure her that she wouldn’t have to do anything herself to prevent getting into the same situation again, but other than that she doesn’t need to know anything about it because Software Update is something that “just works”.

    I’d say the biggest improvement has been Places, but as you say she doesn’t use bookmarks and just types into the address bar to visit websites she’s been to before, I think explaining the benefits of the Awesome Bar would be a good idea. Some people I know still start by typing www or http, which is unnecessary if the website is in their history and doesn’t reveal the power of the Awesome Bar. Being able to type a word or even a few letters from the url or title of a web page is a great time saver and useful if you can’t remember the correct address, but for a lot of people it’s not going to be immediately obvious that you can do that.

  8. I think Mozilla should publish a small widget that site authors can include at the bottom of the tag. Any detected FF 1.0.x browser would be prompted to upgrade via some site overlay (and a list of graphical steps that explain how). I’d add that to any website I’m working on, no problem.

  9. I think the answer is inherent: Best new feature is auto-update. 🙂 And not just for the ease of use, but for the good of the web.

    Other than that, I think it takes rereading the relnotes for Fx1.5, 2.0, and 3.0.

  10. The keyhole design back/forward button!

    Ok maybe not, but it’s cool and the first thing a user is likely to notice. 🙂

    Most of the “best new features” I could name are actually addons… 😉 Not a bad thing IMO.

    For the average user, my list would pretty much be the same as yours. My #1 pick would have to be the awesomebar though (especially for your bookmarkless friend) since it makes the browsing experience easier and faster.

  11. This is the sweet spot of holiday IT support. You visit a friend or relative, fix their computer problems in 5 minutes *and* look like a hero. 🙂

    As for features, hands down, I’d say tabs and all the things that make tabs work.

  12. I would definitely choose the Awesome Bar as the best new feature. When you said you only told her about one new feature, I thought you would have showed her the awesome bar, as you had said that she mainly used the history through the address bar to navigate to sites, which the experience for that has changed very much so from 1.0.7.

  13. I’ll have to go for vastly improved performance. With the modern webpage easily reaching into the hundreds of kilobytes, it matters. Vastly improved security would also be nice to mention, as the Web is more dangerous nowadays.

    Off-topic: you shouldn’t be so surprised, Firefox was a browser ahead of its time. I’ve been using *Mozilla* since before it hit 1.0, and it rocked.

  14. Wow, I wouldn’t know where to start either. I think you chose a good feature to explain though, since it will produce dialogs every now and then that your friend will have to click through.

  15. Pfffiiiooouuu

    I miss 0.9.1 because of its contextual navigation toolbar. We don’t have it anymore and that’s sad. Some websites were very useful with. The Links Widgets is not enough.
    In 0.9.8, we lose on the fly theme changing. Now, we have to start again, as in MS-Windows.

    Between 1.0.7 and 3.0.7 ?
    Heeeeemmm.

    Memorizing opened tabs. And reopening ones we just closed.

  16. Best new feature? Difficult…

    Reorder tab is high on my list for sure, followed by session restore. Beside that i’m probably going to need a list of changes between 1.07 and 3.05, as the best change is probably one i can’t even remember 🙂

    Ofcourse another big one is the huge list of extensions available these days, but that’s not really a new feature 😀

  17. For me as web developer, huge *Gecko rendering engine improvements*—including Reflow refactoring, CSS support improvements, tons of bugfixes and some useful features like soft hyphen support—are most valuable changes in Firefox since version 1.0. Awesomebar is quite nice feature too.

  18. If I had to pick just one, I’d say “awesomebar” because it has absolutely changed how I use my browser. But there are so many others.

  19. See, I was unaware of the fact that tabbed browsing only came to Firefox post-1.0.7. When was it added?

    Anyway, that would definitely be the number one improvement over a non-tabbed browsing version of Firefox.

  20. That’s a hard one. Any one of the things you listed are huge reasons to upgrade (well, with the exception of tabs, they’ve been in there since Phoenix 0.1 😉 ).

    So what one change would I choose? It would depend on who I was talking to.

    If I were talking to me, it would definitely be the Awesome bar. I’ve been using Fx 3 since before it was officially released, and I still smile every time I use the Awesome bar. I can’t live without it.

    For anyone else (unless I knew they had a specific hot button), I would probably choose phishing protection, but I would explain it as “Firefox protects you from bad stuff on the Internet, so you never have to worry about junk getting on your computer and messing it up or slowing it down.” As you can see, I talk to mostly non-technical people. 🙂

    But normally when I’m trying to get someone to switch (and without the artificial constraint), I go with something like, “it’s much faster than Internet Explorer, protects you from all kinds of bad stuff out there–and let me show you what you can do with this thing they call the Awesome bar!”

    If that doesn’t work and they’re middle aged or older, I show then ForecastFox. That usually seals the deal. 😀

  21. “Tabs? Memory improvements? JS performance improvements? Awesome bar? Phishing protection?”
    That’s exactly the problem: For an end user the difference between 1.0 and 3.x is not that big. Most improvements happened under the hood and they only recognize that booting FF3 now takes longer. I’ve had this frustrating experience with end users more than once…

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