Factors affecting realworld adoption rates

Alex Russell has a good essay on ways to improve browser adoption rates, which I picked up through a recommendation by Dion Almaer. I wrote a comment there, but am not sure if there’s a comment-moderation queue or if it got lost. Considering that I was wondering whether to make a blogpost of the comment beforehand, I’ll just paste a copy here so I don’t lose it…. ;-)

Update: Fixed two typos about Player 9 release dates… originally read “2006″, should have been “2007″.


– start republished comment –“Flash can get to ‘ubiquitous’ across the entire web with new capabilities in roughly 18 months and the Open Web faces a best case replacement time-frame of 5 years. Reducing that differential from 42 months to zero is now the defining challenge of the Open Web.”Hi, interesting essay. I don’t have the answer, but I do have some datapoints which may be of use:o Consumer adoption rate of Adobe Flash Player is now actually quite a bit faster than that… Player 9 (with Just-In-Time compilation etc) was released end of June 2006 2007 and was audited at 97% consumer support twelve months later. Its Update 3 (with H.264 video) was released in December 2006 2007 and reached 82% consumer support within six months.http://justin.everett-church.com/index.php/2008/07/09/fp9-97-flash-player-9-update-3-at-82/Neither of these used the auto-update mechanism, which is reserved for security releases. It was the range of content out there which drove the adoption rates.To have over 80% overall consumer support, across browser brands, within six months is indeed a big deal.o Download size has been an issue in the past. I’m not sure what effect it will have in the future, particularly across device types. In the early days Macromedia did studies adding null kilobytes to Player downloads and measuring the dropoff rate in completed installations. The more time people have to hit that “Cancel Download” button, the more will do so. And browsers are bigger than plugins….o I haven’t seen measurements of it, but one factor I’ve long suspected for slower browser adoption is that it risks change to each person’s daily visual/tactile routine. Browsers have chrome, menu items, new preferences to investigate. Adobe Flash Player is just invisible. There are no habits to change, no risk of breaking daily concentration. Visible newness can slow adoption.Rephrased, changing your browser chrome involves a conscious choice, the assumption of risk of habit change. But invisibly improving a background capability is an easier choice to make.o Needless to say, changing browser brands imposes a much higher cost on endusers than just updating within the same brand. If all browser creators don’t agree on providing a capability, then it will always be costly for sitemakers to employ that capability. This is intrinsic to the spec-first, implement-later model, and is one reason why cross-browser plugins are such a valuable complement.o Firefox does have a healthy update rate. But it accomplishes this by daily phoning home to check for new updates. Adobe Flash Player defaults to checking for updates every 30 days, and such updates are published at a less frequent rate than for Firefox. I’m not sure of the optimum notification setting or criteria for the majority of the web, but suspect it’s more at the Player end of the scale than the Firefox scale. Open question.http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager05.htmlo What’s the fastest way to use new abilities? I suspect it’s opening up “The Open Web” and not casting aside technologies just because of branding. Folks at Sitepen already have an open-minded attitude towards web technologies. But there’s also some needless antagonism out there too.By embracing cross-browser technologies, instead of retreating into a browser-brand niche, wider audiences will be able to use newer abilities more quickly.My apologies for any poor phrasing on my part… typed quickly. These are some of the ideas I thought of while reading Alex’s essay and subsequent comments. Thanks for the read!jd/adobe