[tor-dev] Tor Browser downloads and updates graphs

Georg Koppen gk at torproject.org
Wed Sep 14 08:53:00 UTC 2016

David Fifield:
> On Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 11:12:15AM -0400, Mark Smith wrote:
>> On 9/11/16 3:45 PM, David Fifield wrote:
>>>> * We don't know what (8) or (9) is but it seems to us we are losing
>>>> users over time and are only getting them back slowly if at all. A
>>>> weekday/weekend pattern is visible there as well.
>>> Does Tor Browser continue checking for further updates in the span of
>>> time between when it downloads an update and when it is restarted? For
>>> example, you are running 6.0, the browser downloads the 6.0.1 update and
>>> stages it and asks you to restart; does the browser check for updates
>>> until you actually restart? If not, then the decreases in update pings
>>> might be people being tardy in restarting their browser.
>> That is a good theory, but I don't think update checks occur if there is
>> a pending update. The code that checks and returns early is here:
>> https://gitweb.torproject.org/tor-browser.git/tree/toolkit/mozapps/update/nsUpdateService.js?h=tor-browser-45.4.0esr-6.0-1#n2388
> Oh, thanks for finding that source code link. I looked for that code and
> didn't find it.
> But that's exactly what I'm saying: once someone has downloaded an
> update, they stop sending update pings until their next restart, which
> might explain the decreases in update pings at (8) and (9) in the graphs.

I am not convinced this is what actually happened for at least 2 reasons:

1) There are more than two updates over the whole time which the graph
shows and I see now reason why a large amount of users would have
changed their restart behavior just for those two incidents (if they
were related to new releases at all).

2) The decrease in update pings for (9) seems to start before the 6.0
release gets out.

Cass Brewer had some ideas in a different mail which might be worth
keeping in mind:

    (8) Feb 25 was when Wired, Ars Technica, and others reported that
the FBI had broken Tor, which might have led a lot of people to step
away from their browser and Onion Services for a couple of weeks.

    (9) May 15 was when the story about FBI/Isis hit popular sites like
CNN and Entrepreneur.com The FBI hack also continued to see a lot of
popular coverage around that time, which might have suppressed  browser

On the other hand, as Arthur Edelstein pointed out in the last Tor
Browser meeting: there does not seem to be a similar drop in update
requests (i.e. actual .mar files containing the update). While one has
to keep in mind that the updater is falling back to requesting a
complete .mar file if the incremental one can't be applied, it is still
somewhat surprising to me to see the amount of update requests being not
really affected by the update ping decreases.


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