Phantom tabs have been designed to help Internet users reduce the amount of computer memory the Google Chrome browser uses at any given time.
Many Internet users keep some websites and services open all the time in a web browser even though they might be accessed only sporadically by them. These tabs occupy quite some memory regardless of whether they are accessed or not in a browsing session. Basically, as long as they are not used actively, they are dead weight that use memory without being beneficial in any way or form.
This does not really matter on systems with lots of memory, but if memory is always low, you may prefer an option to unload tabs that you don't use all the time without closing them completely.
That's where phantom tabs come into play to help you reduce the memory used by the web browser. They basically kill the process of the tab so that the computer memory is freed but leave an indicator in the form of the web page's favicon behind so that the website can be opened again when needed.
Update: The feature is not available anymore in the most recent versions of Google Chrome. Google did implement an automatic option that it named automatic tab discarding. It is only available on Windows and Mac systems though and cannot be controlled by the user. Chrome will discard tabs automatically when memory runs low. Discarded tabs remain in the tab bar of the browser but are unloaded from memory to free up some. End
Phantom Tabs in Google Chrome have been implemented in the latest developer builds of the web browser. They need to be enabled with the switch --enable-phantom-tabs.
Closing a pinned tab in the Google Chrome browser will close the process of that tab thus freeing memory that the tab occupied. The tab background appears transparent now which indicates to the user that it is a phantom tab.
A left-click on any phantom tab will display the closed tab so that the website can be accessed by the Chrome user again.
Lee Mathews over at
Download Squad has created a short video demonstrating the new phantom tabs feature:
Phantom Tabs are a useful feature for Chrome users who make use of the pinned tab feature of the browser to permanently place some websites in the tabbar of the web browser.
Update: As mentioned before, Phantom Tabs are no longer a part of the Chrome browser. You can use an extension such as OneTab instead to unload select tabs from memory without removing them from the browser completely.
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