My Sister, the Early Adopter

With those numbers, we can begin to chart the Firefox position on the product diffusion curve. It's clear that we've moved out of the innovators phase. We are probably well into the early adopters phase, moving towards the early majority stage. That's about the right time for the mainstream press, such as the New York Times, to catch on.

The more technically savvy people, like my girlfriend and I, embraced Firefox long ago. We have few reservations about (carefully) downloading and installing replacement software. For us, the inertia of pre-installed software is not a tremendous barrier.

Most people, however, would rather just use whatever is on their system already. The question is, what will be required for people like, say, my sister, to embrace Firefox.

When I visited my sister over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was pressed into emergency computer repair services. Her system had a nasty spyware infection. This particular infection was adroit at resisting removal attempts. It had bunged up registry permissions so badly, presumably to inhibit removal, that the SP2 update could not be installed on the computer.

After significant effort and a full evening of work, the spyware was eradicated. Although the battle was won, the computer remained vulnerable to future infection.

One of the ways computers get infected by spyware is through web browser bugs, specifically Internet Explorer bugs. Spyware authors exploit vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer to place their malware on a system. The continuing parade of security flaws in IE offers a wide range of holes for malware to wriggle through.

To reduce the chance of re-infection, I wanted to get my sister to switch to Firefox. I knew two things were required for the switch to work. First, the discomfort of switching had to be minimized, so she didn't have excess difficulty learning the new browser. Second, she had to like the new browser enough to be willing to give it a try.

To make the Firefox transition as easy as possible, I installed it as the default, removed the IE icons from the desktop, imported her old IE favorites into Firefox bookmarks, and set her start page. I did a little training session, to show her all the cool things it could do such as tabbed browsing and the bookmarks editor.

She was a good sport. She had a little difficulty because she lost her browser cookies, and so she had to re-login everywhere. Other than that, it went smoothly. I left her that night, browsing away with Firefox.

I wasn't sure the switch would stick. There is tremendous inertia to stick with Internet Explorer.

I talked with her the other week. She told me she was really enjoying that Mozeelah Foxfire I put on her computer. It was working very well for her, and she didn't miss IE at all.

As the news spreads, more people are going to be encouraged to try Firefox. I hope their experience is as good as my sister's was.


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re: My Sister, the Early Adopter

I switched my mother over earlier this year as well. I think she got an early adopter thrill when she saw a story on Firefox on ABC News about a month ago. They were touting it as a new browset to coincide with the 1.0 release. She mentioned seeing and made some elitist comment like "hasn't it already been out for a while".

I think the other huge selling point in addition to the features that you mentioned is the Adblock extension. I installed it on her browser and showed her how it worked. She's loves it. I have to admit, I'm quite enamored of it myself.