I've tried for a while now to persuade my mum to take basic precautions to ensure she is as secure as possible when using the internet. Weening her off AOL took the promise of faster internet and better reliability with a Pipex broadband connection (1). Small things, like installing a firewall and antivirus for her, took many months of reasoning before permission was given.
In the end though, I am happy enough for my mum to use the net without major problems. And until recently, she was using Internet Explorer. ActiveX was disabled, though she had no idea what that actually was - or that it was disabled. Same with third party cookies and several plugins.
Occasionally I had to explain why a site wouldn't work, and she'd be happy enough finding and using a different one. She referred to Internet Explorer as "Google" and associated (and still does to a degree) the blue 'e' on her taskbar with Google, because it was her homepage.
Eventually, though, the only things left to do were to help her switch to a better browser and email client (Thunderbird's not quite ready, but that switch is coming soon).
Opera was something of a disaster. She liked the way the email client worked, and picked that up in no time, but as a whole she found there was too much to take in. I removed just about every button and bar, till we were left with basically a pretty-looking replica of the IE interface, but by then the damage was done. She just doesn't like Opera. At least she's tried it though, which is something.
After Opera, of course, came Firefox. Now it's actually been released, I'm happy to recommend it to her. And the funny thing is, she loves it. She says the top bar is prettier and easier to use than IE (actually, she says it's prettier than Google, but we all know what she means). She loves the popup blocker, though I'm fairly sure she's forgotten it's there.
Best of all though is the stuff she doesn't know is there. She has noticed that some sites look better. Not many, but a few. She doesn't know it, but she is more secure. She's even started using favourites - something she, until recently, avoided like the plague.
We were having a chat about it today, though, and that's when it hit me - most of the reasons I gave her for changing are completely and utterly worthless. She doesn't care if it renders pages like the W3C say they should be rendered. She doesn't know, or want to know, who the W3C are or that CSS is what controls the look of pages.
She doesn't care about tabbed browsing. She uses one web page at a time. When she's finished with it she goes back to Google and starts over again. She might, one day, start to use tabbed browsing, but I doubt it. She doesn't care about RSS. She doesn't know what that is. She wouldn't use it if she did.
At the end of the day, she likes - and uses - Firefox because it's faster, better looking, and just plain easier to use. She likes the fact she feels safer using the net with it. That's it.
Perhaps that's how we should start pitching it to the masses.
1 Before anyone complains that I've done something wrong by getting her to switch to broadband, she's very happy she's changed. She loves the speed, and it's saving her money - before, she had a second line and was paying for an unmetered connection.