Firefox Appears To Handle Lots Of Tabs Better Than Chrome

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 3, 2011
Updated • Mar 7, 2015

Which web browser handles 150 open tabs better, Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome? That's what Gregor Wagner wanted to find out in a scalability test. The test setup was the following: Open the 150 most popular web sites in both web browsers and see which performs better memory and performance wise. Gregor automated the process with a script that opened a new web page every 1.5 seconds in both browsers until all 150 web pages had been opened. The test system was a dual-core MacBook Pro with 8 Gigabytes of RAM.

The script that was used in the test is linked on Gregor's site so that users can try the test on their systems as well.

A recent Firefox Nightly and a Google Chrome Canary version where used in the test. How did the two browser's perform? The time command returned the following values:

  • Firefox: real 6m14.406s - user 3m55.302s - sys 0m49.366s
  • Chrome: real 28m55.573s - user 21m58.383s - sys 14m40.860s

Gregor noticed a significant slow-down at the 70 open pages mark in the Chrome browser. At 150 pages open, it was not possible to scroll on a page. Firefox on the other hand was "still pretty snappy and scrolling is like there is no other open tab".

Gregor then looked at the memory usage of the browser. Turned out that Firefox used 27 threads and total of 2.02 Gigabytes of RAM for all 150 open tabs. The Chrome browser, with its multi-process architecture used "a little bit" over 5 Gigabytes of memory with 150 tabs open.

One could argue that the test is not really replicating real world browser usage, and that's definitely correct. It is however still remarkable that Chrome does not really scale that well despite its multi-process rendering architecture.

Firefox was able to complete the V8 benchmark test with 150 tabs open, while Chrome stopped rendering while staying at a 100% cpu performance.

Has anyone ever opened more than 70 tabs in the Chrome browser? If so, what was your experience?


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Ben Jones said on February 14, 2013 at 11:10 am


    This is still true in 2013. I’m a veritable Renaissance man when it comes to surfing the internet: averaging 40-50 tabs open at any moment.

    Along with NoScript, this is the prime reason I prefer Firefox. I’m glad to see the numbers reflect such a ridiculous amount of performance difference because that’s been exactly my sentiment for years…


  2. Pablo Molina said on April 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I use firefox and chromium based browsers for developing. Open 10-12 tabs. CoolNovo (chromium based) handles well the multitab browsing (consuming less memory than Chrome). But firefox 11 lags. and turns slow and unresponsive, specially when editing heavy load pages.

    This is a real world situation.

  3. PJ said on January 28, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Would love to utilize something similar to Tab Badge in Chrome (pinned tabs) and surprised it doesn’t exist already. I’d be happy to pay for such an app! Any plans to develop such an app? Something specifically for Facebook with just a counter in the pinned tab and no desktop notifications. Keep up the great work! If not a counter in the favicon, then something more like this icon color change

  4. Max said on August 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Make another test – leave those 150 tabs hanging open for the night. Firefox won’t be that clear of a winner ;)

  5. Brent said on August 13, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Something that long time users of Firefox need to do: delete your preferences. At some point, we’ve all tried some tweak to make things faster, or settings made in older versions of Firefox don’t get updated to new defaults when you upgrade. Wiping out your prefs will give you a fair boost in performance.

  6. Schilder said on August 12, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Interesting results. I´m glad I´m already using FF so theres no need to change. :-)

  7. Sudhir India Panda said on August 8, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Mac FF rocks, but Windows Chrome rules. Repeat the experiment in Windows 7 and then we are talking about 95%+ internet people. I have successfully Opened 200+ tabs in Chrome without crashing, agreed, was not 200 different domains, but Firefox gets slow after 70, and after 120-140 mark, freezes. Chrome goes on and on, as long as you have enough RAm and Virtual Memory to boot. See here, the trick is so crystal clear and concise:

    FF handles all tabs as a single task as far as Windows task manager goes, while Chrome has a separate Task for each tab. While end of the day the memory allocation may be slightly higher, ok, ok, a little like 20-50% more, the memory allocation for each tab is individual, so there is no real cap for the Physical memoryto be used. However, firefox can go upto 2GB as a single application and then runs out of steam.

    the Biggest benefit is , in Chrome you can close a tab, if it freezes, without effecting other 199 tabs, while in firefox, you end up closing the whole application, and god forbid if you have disbaled the “last opened tab option”, all the hard work goes to the dump. Again its only Windows that works well for Chrome. In mac FF is king for now.

  8. josh meyer said on August 4, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    At least on linux this result is the exact opposite result of what i get when i use browsers i often get up to over 100 tabs in chrome but can’t up to even 70 tabs on firefox without it being practically impossible to use but chrome stays generally pretty usable and this whether i use the development or stable builds for either one

    1. Nathaniel said on August 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm

      On linux too (Fedora/Debian), but don’t get opposite results, with always 50+ tabs and often 100-125+ tabs (i like to put in tabs things i want to read later and don’t close websites i visit frequently), i have no problems with Firefox, but have not much extensions (adblock plus, flashblock, cookies exporter) nor extensions (flash, gtalk, gtalk video) compared to some people.

      Chrome on the other hand doesn’t perform very well as said in this article, slow for reload all tabs on start/restart, then slow managing lots of tabs.

      Although the test is not really replicating real world browser usage as it is said, it is not so far and still representative, in my opinion.

      (sorry for my bad english)

  9. nevilis said on August 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    I was told Threads perform better than Processes. Does that mean anything?

  10. B. Moore said on August 4, 2011 at 9:41 am

    So is there or isn’t there a memory leak in FF 5?

    Any time I push past 20 tabs it needs a restart. Yes it could be an extension but I am just trying to rule things out 1 at a time.

    For me video cause the most havoc in Chrome.
    Google really needs to get a handle on their extension process. There are some pretty bad ones out there.

  11. boris said on August 4, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Still remember why I switched to Firefox 2.0 a long while ago: great multitab handling.

  12. fred said on August 4, 2011 at 6:48 am

    I find that chrome stays fast longer for a reasonable number of tabs, but if you go to insane numbers yes it would die. Firefox bogs down faster but stays usable if you go insane. I like chromes separate processes for each tab, lets one isolate and treat any tab that is using more than it should

    1. dima said on May 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      did you ever heard of the word “BULLSHIT”? I used firefox on windows for ~5 years ( not single crash that I can remember ), and now for ~2 years on linux, no single crash as well, and this I can say for sure. I sit on one of my friends laptop, win7, Google Chrome browser, and after 30 minutes, flash crashed, rendering the system unusable, and taking down all other tabs… Not that I’m a firefox fanboy or something, but google chrome is full o s***t…. I would also recomend to google team to rename it from Chrome to Crap
      On this browser topic : I really like luakit, but it has a bug, dying when douing search in facebook search bar. About memory management, is somewhere in between Chrome and Firefox ( less than Chrome, but slightly more than firefox..)

  13. Jojo said on August 4, 2011 at 5:30 am

    Did this test on a MAC? WTF!

    Want to see it run on Windows 7. Different OS’s handle memory allocation and everything else differently.

  14. Matthew Gladman said on August 4, 2011 at 12:58 am

    I’m curious to see how Opera world perform, I know myself I often have 60+ tabs opened. And it still feels snappy. although in note of chrome using more memory, the multi process design will increase memory use. But you know what they say, unused memory is wasted memory (although an individual program should NOT use that design, only a system preloader (eg, superfetch) should

  15. nick said on August 3, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    I always use Firefox when I’m opening a folder of sites (ie, many tabs at once). Chrome has no tab scroll and is terrible at managing multiple tabs opening at once. Firefox rules for this task.

    But for regular browsing where tabs are opened and closed periodically (not all at once), Chrome is much better than Firefox mostly because Chrome can reclaim memory when tabs are closed.

  16. DonNakhoda said on August 3, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    I would have to disagree with this, I usually work with both chrome and firefox running at the same time, 20-30 tabs per window, multiple windows, if needed too. pinning tabs as well. But I have learnt that firefox crashes and freezes more often then chrome. Where firefox might need to be restarted, chrome will have my back.

  17. Red said on August 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    There is a far more serious problem with tabs on Chrome. Try pinning a dozen or so pages. Then unpin them and close the tabs in the normal way, click X on the tab. Now close chrome down and see what happens. Chances are when you fire up Chrome once again, you will see all the previously pinned tabs reloaded once again. It go on doing this every time you reload Chrome.

    1. Mushaf said on August 3, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      This thing really bothers me. Just because of this stupid restoration ‘feature’ I don’t pin tabs in Chrome anymore.

      Now about the topic here, I never found Chrome to be very performance friendly. It occasionally freezes and takes 100% CPU on Facebook and some other sites when I have 20+ tabs opened. Firefox 5 never gave me such problem.

  18. VIVEK KUMAR said on August 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Firefox is the best browser ever………..

    1. Roebie said on August 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm

      FF at least WAS the best browser. Many of the changes since 4.0 are rather horrible.
      That much said, I regularly have between 20 and 30 tabs open and that for sure is no problem at all.
      Can’t say how Chrome handles that as I refuse to use that browser. Too much of big brother looking over my shoulder…

      1. Jim said on August 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm

        Try Chromium or Comodo Dragon instead. They have the intrusive Google stuff stripped out. Lets you test drive the browser without worrying about being spied on…well, any more than usual that is.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.