While Google Chrome is generally seen as a lean browser optimized for speed, things are not all that glorious under the hood. The browser's memory consumption is an Achilles' Heel especially when compared to competing browsers like Firefox.
Tests in 2012 and 2014 confirmed that Chrome used more memory under similar conditions than Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer and virtually any other web browser out there. High memory usage is not necessarily a bad thing or something that impacts performance as the impact depends largely on the amount of RAM installed on the computer and what it is used for.
If the computer has plenty of free memory, it does not really matter if Chrome uses a lot, but if the machine is always low on memory, it will impact the performance of the overall system.
Google announced today that it has started to work on memory improvements in Chrome recently to optimize the browser's memory usage.
The first change affects the browser's tab loading behavior on start. This benefits users who have configured Chrome to restore the previous session on start. Chrome previously loaded all tabs from left to right on start which could have a huge impact on resource use, availability and memory use.
The change restores tabs in chronological order starting with the tab that was used most recent in the browser and ending with the tab that was active the longest time ago. The idea here is to push recently used tabs to the front as users may want to continue working with those instead of tabs that were not active recently.
While this may or may not be the case, Chrome will stop reloading tabs if it notices that computer resources are running low. This simply prevents the loading of tabs in the browser but keeps them listed in the browser's tab bar so that they can be loaded on-demand by the user.
Another change made recently improves memory release in the browser. Chrome may release memory of inactive tabs to free up memory. This is not the same as unloading the tab but may free up to 25% of the memory the tab uses according to Google. The gain depends largely on the service or website open in the tab.
It remains to be seen if these optimizations will improve Chrome's abysmal startup performance when restoring tabs. Browsers such as Firefox handle this better as they load only the most recent tab by default which improves startup time significantly, especially when lots of tabs are carried over from the last session.
The last change has not been rolled out yet to all users of the browser. Google Chrome may pause Flash content on websites that are not of the highest priority to improve memory usage and battery. This may affect ads for instance that are not visible on the screen (because of being shown in the non-visible part of the screen).
The feature will roll out to all users of the browser in the coming weeks.
Now You: Do you care how much memory your browser uses?
Advertising revenue is falling fast across the Internet, and independently-run sites like Ghacks are hit hardest by it. The advertising model in its current form is coming to an end, and we have to find other ways to continue operating this site.
We are committed to keeping our content free and independent, which means no paywalls, no sponsored posts, no annoying ad formats (video ads) or subscription fees.
If you like our content, and would like to help, please consider making a contribution:
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.