Windows XP Firefox Users

Speaking of fourteen-year-old technology: Windows XP.


Ah, Windows XP. The most-used Operating System until August, 2012. Released in October of 2001, it was an incredibly-popular upgrade to the previous champion, Windows 98 Second Edition.

It was so popular that Microsoft kept sending it security updates and assorted bugfixes up to April 8, 2014. That’s nearly twelve and a half years. That’s four and a half years after XPs true successor, Windows 7, was released. (We do not speak of Vista)

Windows 7 will end-of-life after only 10 years, in 2020. Windows 8 lost it after 3 (if you include 8.1, it will only last 9).

Why am I talking about it, almost two full years after even Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP: the most long-supported of OSes from Redmond? Because people are still using it. And not just any people: Firefox users.

Roughly 12% of Firefox users on release and beta channels are running Windows XP. That’s almost as many as are using Windows 10 (15%) and almost double how many users we have on Mac (6.7%).

(For the record, Linux users on these two channels make up less than 1%)

[edit – oh, and please remember that the usual rules of Data Science apply: I’m only able to analyse what is being provided. So if a disproportionate number of Firefox users on, say, Linux aren’t reporting Telemetry on release or beta channels, they will be undercounted in the presented numbers]

“But… Who? I don’t know anyone who is using an operating system two years past its end-of-life.” you might be thinking. Well, this is called an “inherent bias”: just because it doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Intrigued by this result (as I too know no one still running XP) I tried to find out what was different about the XP population as compared to the wider Firefox user base, and what was the same. I used a longitudinal dataset that we’re experimenting with internally, which is why all of my figures aren’t linked to analyses.

It might interest you to know that Windows XP users are more likely to have configured their Firefox to run in the Russian, Polish, or Spanish locales. They are less likely to have configured it to use the English or German locales.

Windows XP users are less centrally-located than other users. According to geo-ip lookups of users’ IP addresses when they submit Firefox Telemetry reports, nearly 18% of the Firefox user base is in the United States. That is a great degree of centralization and means Mozilla can get great “bang for its buck” with outreach programs that operate in the United States. A Windows XP Firefox user is far less likely to be in the United States or Germany, and is slightly less likely to be in Great Britain, France, or Japan. Instead, a Windows XP Firefox user is somewhat more likely to be in Russia, Poland, India, the Ukraine, Egypt, Spain, or Italy.

How engaged are Windows XP Firefox users? Maybe they only have it installed and running, but don’t actually use it much day-to-day.

A good predictor of engagement is having Firefox set as the default browser on a system, so a lower proportion of “default browser: Yes” for Windows XP users might signal lower engagement. However, the data shows that Windows XP Firefox users are more likely to have Firefox set as their system’s default browser (even accounting for how difficult it now is in Windows 10 to set non-Edge browsers to be the system default).

Another good predictor of engagement is having addons installed. Addons might also be a good signifier that a user chose Firefox because it offers, with its addons, a compelling feature that not just any other browser can match. Data says: Windows XP Firefox users are much more likely to have 0 addons installed than the Firefox users in general, so maybe the choice of browser was made for them? Maybe they don’t know about addons at all.

All these differences might make it easy to divide the user base into “us” and “them”. “They” are running an outdated OS. “They” make hardware acceleration development harder in Firefox.

But we are all similar in more respects than you realize. We are all just as likely to live in Canada, Mexico, Indonesia, Belgium, Portugal, South Africa, or any of the other dozens and dozens of countries where Firefox users live. We are all just as likely to be running an up-to-date version of release Firefox. We are all as likely to have a truly-ridiculous number of addons installed (13 or more).

And, most importantly, we all use Firefox to access the global resource that is the Web.


Edit – I don’t have data to back up my assertion that “A good predictor of engagement is having Firefox set as the default browser on a system” and :dolske told me about an experiment Firefox ran where we just didn’t ask users to set us as their default browser. In the experiment, user retention and active hours did not decrease. Desktop users’ engagement is apparently unaffected by what browser is opened if you click on a link in another program.


One thought on “Windows XP Firefox Users

  1. Pingback: Firefox’s Windows XP Users’ Upgrade Path – chuttenblog

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