Opera promises better memory usage in Opera 39

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 27, 2016
Updated • Jul 27, 2016

Opera announced yesterday that the company has been experimenting with a new memory Heap compaction feature in the Dev and Beta versions of Opera for some time.

The new feature promises better memory usage in Opera 39 and newer by adding a heap compaction phase to the browser's memory management functionality.

Basically, what the new memory management feature does is reduce memory fragmentation of the web browser by adding the heap compaction function to it.

We attacked memory fragmentation by implementing a cheap, single-pass inplace compaction of heaps (picture a “heap” as the “cupboard” in the analogy above). The benefits are two-fold: less heap memory is allocated, and live objects are packed tighter, thereby increasing memory locality and speed of access.

The new function adds two benefits to the browser according to Opera: first, it reduces the amount of heap memory allocated at any given point in time. Second, it improves memory locality and therefore speed of access.

Heap Compaction in Opera 39

Opera ran some tests on popular sites and noticed noticeable heap size reductions. On The New York Times website, heap size went down to 4.0 MB from 9.0 MB. Similar improvements were measured on Gmail, Amazon or Wikipedia where heap size almost always halved or saw an even better reduction than that.

One should not confuse heap size with overall memory use of the browser though. A quick, unscientific test of my own showed no noticeable improvements in Opera Developer (with heap compaction) over Opera Stable (without heap compaction).

The methodology I used was simple: open x sites in Opera Developer and Stable, and compare memory use in Windows Explorer after a while. Obviously, this is not the best of methodologies and a scientific test would use other memory measurement tools for that and probably some automation on top of that.

This does not mean that there is no improvement though, and it is likely that your mileage will vary depending on the sites you visit and your actions on those sites.

Opera plans to integrate heap compaction in the Blink engine. If the company does that, all other Blink-based browsers, Chrome and Vivaldi for instance, will benefit from the feature as well.

The company has added several new features to its web browser recently. This includes a Battery Saver feature to save battery, a browser proxy to improve user privacy, and a built-in ad blocker.

Now You: How big of a role plays a browser's memory use for you?

Opera promises better memory usage in Opera 39
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Opera promises better memory usage in Opera 39
Opera announced yesterday that the company has been experimenting with a new memory Heap compaction feature in the Dev and Beta versions of Opera for some time.
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  1. Paranam Kid said on August 1, 2016 at 11:14 am

    @MIke W.: when you say “Google would technically be punishable” you mean theoretically because in practice Google’s data collection is only too interesting to US lawmakers.
    You say you have “avoided using Opera to do any sensitive work/banking/e-mails, etc.” which does not make sense so far because Opera had not been sold yet, the deal was finalised only last week.
    As for QiHoo, in AV reviews I have only seen positive comments about their 360 security suite; elsewhere I have seen some negative comments from others but without any factual data to substantiate those claims. Why is no one expressing concerns about Verizon’s take-over of Yahoo? Is Verizon so friendly, so clean to its customers?
    There is more & more Chinese software appearing on the market, and in Western eyes that software is crap/dubious/clunky/whatever by definition, but IMO that is pure bias because there is also good Chinese stuff coming out, such as the Kingsoft office suite, Aomei backupper, and (dare I mention it) the 360 AV suite, to mention just a few. But yes, there is less than Western stuff.
    Are the Chinese really more nefarious than their Western counterparts, is their software really (a lot) worse than Western software?

    1. Mike W. said on August 1, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      You are putting a blanket statement where a blanket is not needed. Anybody who dismisses ALL Chinese software or products is wearing a tinfoil hat and needlessly paranoid. OnePlus has proven itself to be an excellent hardware company in the mobile game for instance. The issue that I have with the Opera sale is entirely tied to QiHoo 360. Do a quick Google search on the recent history of the company and you will find some disturbing trends.


      Now, could some of these authors/websites, etc. have personal biases against QiHoo? Sure, but where there is smoke, there is often fire and QiHoo has a LOT to prove before I feel comfortable with them taking over Opera. Do I still use Opera? Sure, I still use to check out news websites like the NY Times, Washington Post, Fangraphs, etc. etc. But until they better lay out exactly what role QiHoo is going to have with the company and what exactly this sale means for the browser going forward (i.e. will they be left alone to continue development or will QiHoo replace all the people on the Opera team?) I refuse to pump sensitive information into it. I hope that Opera keeps pushing forward and doesn’t get bogged down once the sale becomes official. But QiHoo’s involvement gives me pause and until that company can show a better, proven track record of being trustworthy I do not feel hopeful about this sale.

      All that being said, at least there are a number of startups trying to carve out their own niche in the browser game like Vivaldi and Brave that could position themselves as solid alternatives to Opera should this sale cause the user experience to suffer.

      1. Paranam Kid said on August 1, 2016 at 4:21 pm

        Thanks for the links. Yes, Qihoo has done some despicable things, though not all of it I would classify as unique such as their user tracking activity. What strikes me is that the articles are old (2011) to not recent (April 2015), so I don’t know what the current status is. But, if they have improved, they have not been able to build a good track record yet.

        You are right to point out the issues with Qihoo. You got a lot of stick from posters on an earlier Ghacks article about this, calling you a bigot, racist, etc. Those qualifications are misplaced as you clearly explained why you have your doubts, which are unrelated to the fact that the buyer is Chinese.

        What I still don’t understand is that before the purchase happened you were already using Opera for “unimportant” stuff only, primarily because you were already worried about using Opera for confidential stuff when it was till in Norwegian hands. Does not make sense. But that’s your biz, no need to answer.

        As for me, I will stick with Opera for now because Qihoo has not got its hands on it yet. If we don’t get better info about the future of the browser I’ll uninstall it.

    2. Sean said on August 1, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      It’s difficult to prove anything but if you ask the netizens of the world if GOOG is acceptable/reliable or another XYZ of China is, you can make a guess what the statistics will say.

      1. Paranam Kid said on August 1, 2016 at 12:18 pm

        Precisely my point: there is so much prejudice against Chinese or Russian companies & software, as if the Western equivalents are so much purer.

  2. hirobo2 said on July 28, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Will continue to use Opera whether the Chinese controls it or not. I don’t do major things like online banking nor sensitive emails on it, so I couldn’t care less which country owns it…

    1. Paranam Kid said on July 28, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      What is the difference anyway between the Chinese owning Opera and Google’s owning Chrome? As the saying goes: “Google knows more about you than your mother.” And Google has not obtained that info by politely asking you for it. So whether & to what extent the Chinese spy on you via Opera is 6 of one half a dozen of the other. And you can take anti-spying action, to some extent.

      1. Mike W. said on August 1, 2016 at 7:08 am

        I think the difference is that if Google was found doing something untoward with user data, they would technically be punishable under US or EU laws. The concern with Opera being sold is there will be little, if any, recourse should they start to do questionable data collection practices. Truthfully, I wouldn’t mind Opera being sold if they were being sold to a company other than QiHoo 360 which has a recent history of not exactly being the most reputable company in the world.

        I still have Opera on one of low end Windows PC’s because Opera seems to run much better on low RAM devices than Chrome, Firefox, Vivaldi, etc. That said, I have avoided using Opera to do any sensitive work/banking/e-mails, etc. with the browser until they better lay out what this sale means for the browser’s functionality and security going forward.

  3. Sean said on July 28, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Is Opera out of Chinese Bliss?

  4. yapadkoi said on July 28, 2016 at 7:33 am

    “How big of a role plays a browser’s memory use for you?”
    Since Opera 12 + Blink, small role in (our) memory, like our promises, good.

  5. Peter Buyze said on July 27, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    When you launch Opera its memory footprint is a reasonable 2-300 Mb. However, when you leave it open, that footprint increases as time goes by, swelling to a whopping 2.5 Gb. So it is absolutely essential something is done. I am happy about that.

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