Getting Firefox data faster: introducing the ‘new-profile’ ping

Let me state this clearly, again: data latency sucks. This is especially true when working on Firefox: a nicely crafted piece of software that ships worldwide to many people. When something affects the experience of our users we need to know and react fast.

The story so far…

We started improving the latency of the data coming from Firefox, in the previous quarters, and got to the point where the majority of pings reach our servers within 1 hour, instead of days (latest Beta only): there’s an extremely satisfying plot by :chutten about that!

However, this change does not help too much with the data latency of users who just installed Firefox (or created a new profile), don’t trigger a subsession split and usually suspend their computer instead of shutting Firefox down. Their first chunk of data would come either at their local midnight or after they wake their computer again. And this could take hours or days (on weekends).

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Getting Firefox data faster: the shutdown pingsender

The data our Firefox users share with us is the key to identify and fix performance issues that lead to a poor browsing experience. Collecting it is not enough if we don’t manage to receive the data in an acceptable time-frame. My esteemed colleague Chris already wrote about this a couple of times: data latency sucks. But we can fix that.

Why is there latency, anyway?

The bulk of measurements we collect (histograms, scalars, events, …) are sent through the main-ping. This ping is generated at different times during the browsing session, including shutdown. The “shutdown” main-ping, which accounts for about ~80% of all the pings we receive, once generated, is not sent to our servers until the next Firefox restart. Depending on the user habits and the day of the week, this could be anything between a few minutes to a few days (see the CDF plot below): way too much! One of my team’s goal for this year is to reduce this latency, allowing developers to take decisions and iterate quickly.

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How We Built It: The First Ever Firefox Hardware Report

By Alessio Placitelli, Ali Almossawi, and Rebecca Weiss
Cross-posted from Medium

We have just released the Firefox Hardware Report, a report of the hardware used by the Firefox release user base. You can read the announcement here. The Firefox team believes that this report will be very valuable to developers, particularly those who build for the web. Web developers need to know what platforms and hardware are being used to inform their decisions when they are building and upgrading applications.

As you may know, Firefox is built not just by the paid contributors of Mozilla but by an amazing community of volunteer contributors. When it comes to data, we believe that our users are also contributing by providing data to us about their client hardware and activity. The Firefox Hardware Report is a way to demonstrate the value of the data that our users have provided.

This article will describe how the Firefox Hardware Report works, from the manner in which the device-level data is measured to the process by which the data is prepped and processed to produce this report.

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