Here’ a nice pic of results from a tab usage survey from Cognitive Daily:
There are some great comments on the post as well.
David Munger summarizes “Only 16.7 percent of respondents said they had more than 10 tabs open. Three-quarters of readers had from 2 to 10 tabs, and most of those had from 2 to 4 tabs open.” The results make sense in a 7+-2 kind of way.
I was impressed with the methodology, given the low cost of online surveying. By asking the question “how many tabs do you have open now?” the survey approaches an ethnological method, while also asking “how many tabs do you usually have open?” The authors used a creative way to get responder age — by recognition of celebrities. This showed that open tabs tend to decrease with age. The Mozilla Spectator project would be a great way to get this type of distribution information, but it’s been pretty quiet on that front lately.
Reactions to the (incorrect) notion that Mozilla might deploy a Google Toolbar style clickstream reporting system were appropriately highly negative. In fact, Spectator was carefully designed to never log actual URLs, but only tab creation and session trails, indicating sequences of page loads and the distribution of sessions across tabs. Pure server-side metrics can’t offer this kind of insight into technographics of internet use or, closer to home, insights for Firefox product design.
The proposed final 2010 data goals focus on data portability, which is certainly a great place to start. Still, the results of this survey remind me of the potential of Spectator to help design systems, like tabs, to manage the pervasiveness of the browser in our day to day lives.
I’ve got a backburner project using ubiquity commands to pull aggregates on places (ex. % page views that are revisits) and search quality metrics. This data could be previewed and posted to a public respository, but sampling issues remain until a truly large scale sample is achieved.