Activity Stream - Post Launch Engineering Update

Tim Spurway tspurway at
Tue Dec 5 20:52:47 UTC 2017

Hey Folks,

Activity Stream was released as the default about:newtab and
about:home experience
for Firefox Quantum just about three weeks ago.  The team is proud to
report that Activity Stream is performing well in release!

Here’s a cool graph from the Activity Stream main dashboard

[image: Inline image 1]

This is the engagement rates of the various Activity Stream
sections/components for both about:home and about:newtab.  Note that
Activity Stream is an almost identical experience on both pages.  The first
thing you notice about this data is that people are using the Home and
Newtab pages very differently  -  more people interact with Activity Stream
on about:home (49%) than on about:newtab (34%).

The engagement gains on about:home appear to be spread across the board:
 Top Sites (from 20% to 28%, a +40% gain), Search (from 11% to 17%, a +37%
gain), Highlights (from 1.6% to 2.6%, a +62% gain) and Pocket (from 0.13%
to 0.34%, a 161% gain).  The explanation for this difference could be that
people use the Newtab page mostly to go somewhere they already have in
mind, whereas they use the Home page to discover new things or to go to
places they have been to before.

This is just one of the insights we have gained since launch.  We are using
results like this to help improve the browsing experience for our users.

*Performance / Perceived Performance*

In the lead up to Firefox Quantum, we worked closely with the Quantum Flow
team to understand what role Activity Stream played in core performance
targets <>.  We were eager to make sure we
weren’t regressing any existing metrics and focused hard on the specific
case of improving/optimizing browser startup

In the 58 cycle, we have had a lot of conversations with Dominik and
Florian about the study of the ‘perceived’ performance of systems like
Activity Stream.  We identified the key events in the starting of Activity
Stream and set to work improving the important browser start-up metric.  We
found video A/B comparison tools to be invaluable for this work.

The link below is a video comparing Browser Startup of Firefox 57 and 58.
Note that to focus on just looking at Activity Stream, we do not include
the entire startup sequence of the browser.  We have synchronized the two
videos to start at the ‘first paint’ event of the overall Firefox startup

[image: Video Browser Startup Firefox 57 vs. 58]

That's pretty cool.  Notice how we 'get something on screen' early, which
is a big perceived win, but also crushes the overall perf numbers from the
previous version.

We are going to keep this work up.  Our #1 priority over the next few
releases is improved performance and stability.

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