July 6, 2012

Empathy For Software Conservatives

Recently my friend Jono wrote an excellent blog post entitled Everybody hates Firefox updates. I agree with pretty much everything he says.

What most struck me during my time in Mozilla’s Mountain View office was a complete lack of empathy for people who might want to “stay where they were” and not upgrade to the latest version of our flagship product. Whenever someone asked a question like, “what if the user wants to stay on the old version of Firefox?”, the response was unequivocally that said user must be delusional: no one should ever want to stay on an old version of a product. It simply doesn’t make sense.

I’ve always credited this bizarre line of thinking to everything I dislike about the Silicon Valley bubble, though I don’t ultimately know if it’s endemic to the Valley or just tech companies in general. I personally have always despised upgrading anything–not just Firefox–for exactly the reasons that Jono outlines in his post. Most people at Mozilla–and likely other software companies–seem to think that it’s just the outliers who dislike such disruption. Maybe they are, I have no idea. But I and most people I know outside of the software industry view upgrades as potential attacks on our productivity, not as shiny new experiences. If there’s any desire at all within Mozilla to cater to such “software conservatives”, the first step is having actual empathy for folks who might want to stay right where they are, rather than treating them as an irrelevant minority.

© Atul Varma 2021