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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Measuring tab and window usage in Firefox

With Mozilla’s Telemetry system, we have a powerful way to collect measurements in the clients while still complying to our rules of lean data collection and anonymization. Most of the measurements are collected in form of histograms that are created on the client side and submitted to our Telemetry pipeline. However, recent needs for better understanding user interaction with the browser has led to the introduction of a new measurement type, the scalar probe. This article compares the two measurement tools and provides guidance on how to submit and analyse the scalars.

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