Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Geoffrey Moore: Firefox is crossing the chasm

Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Technology Products to Mainstream Customers, presented at the Open Source Business Conference 2005, titled Open Source Has Crossed the Chasm...Now What? (you can download or stream the talk for free, no registration required). In this talk, he briefly mentions Firefox:
Firefox, I think is in the chasm. You say, "Well, how is that possible? It's the hottest thing in the place." But it's hot with all the early adopters and I don't think it's crossed the chasm. ... By the way, getting to the chasm is progress. It really is. You know, people are into chasm denial, but the truth of the matter is, getting to the chasm means you have achieved a constituency in the early market that worked, but now the problem is you've got to make a transition, and what appealed to that first group of people will not be what appeals to the people on the other side of the chasm.

First of all, I think it says a lot about Geoffrey Moore that he's been thinking about Firefox and the rest of the open source world, to the extent that he put together such a talk for the Open Source Business Conference.

Secondly, this has important effects on Firefox's marketing efforts. They need to focus their message to the mainstream person. Find the pains they are feeling in web browsing and explain how Firefox eases those pains. "All gain, no pain." That's what mainstream people want to hear when they are considering adopting some new technology like Firefox. The cool features are still cool (like fast rendering, extensions, themes, etc.), but they need to remember that those features won't influence mainstream people nearly as much as the 'pain killer' features will (pop-up blocking, rapid security patches, no Active-X, etc.). Instead of leaving people thinking "Firefox may be slightly better than IE, but I'm happy with IE. It's good enough," they need to get people to see that "IE is painful, I need something better."

The talk is also quite interesting from the open source perspective. I highly recommend it. Slides are available.


Anonymous Dan Thies said...

I agree that Firefox has entered the chasm.... but I don't think it will make it out any time soon. The problem is a level of instability which will not sit well with mainstream users.

Every time I have upgraded to a new dot release of Firefox, I've ended up having to reinstall or otherwise mess around with the thing manually. For example, after installing 1.0.4, Firefox failed on startup, as described in the Mozilla Knowledge Base (

Now, I had no major problem finding this information, understanding it, dumping my default user, reinstalling, copying the necessary files to recover my preferences and stored passwords, and reinstalling all of the extensions I use... other than the hour that it took to do all that.

But average user guy will just switch back to IE after dealing with this a couple times. Promoting Firefox right now, when it's so unreliable (at least on Windows), may well be counterproductive.

That's one of the problems with Open Source - we're all eager to tell the world when some team of programmers makes something really useful, but mainstream computer users are usually not ready for the UI quirks, clunky installs, and crippling bugs that are typical of early release OS "products."

Apache (the whole LAMP server setup, actually) is successful in part because it's just as stable as the closed source alternative, but it's also installed and maintained by geeks who aren't afraid to fire up Pico in a terminal window and fix things.

If Open Source 'products' are to compete with mass market products from the likes of Microsoft, they have to work better.

May 25, 2005 4:08 PM  
Blogger Rob Harwood said...

Dan, I agree with everything you said 100%. The Apache example is exactly right.

I think it is critical that Firefox addresses the update vs. install issue. I know they are working on it for 1.1. I hope they make it really slick. If there's an open source project that can reach the level of ease that is required, I think the only one at this time is Firefox. Let's hope they're up to it.

May 25, 2005 4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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November 06, 2005 7:15 AM  

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