Chrome 55 memory improvements

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 9, 2016
Google Chrome

The web browser Google Chrome 55 will use less memory thanks to improvements made to the browser's JavaScript engine.

Memory use may be one of the deciding factors when it comes to selecting a browser. While it may not play a big role on systems with plenty of RAM, say 4 Gigabyte or more, it is still a hot topic on systems with less.

Google Chrome is known for its memory hunger. If you open ten sites in Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge, you will likely notice that Chrome requires the most memory.

You may check and control memory use in Chrome in various ways, for instance by installing extensions like Tab Limiter.

Chrome 55 memory improvements

Google announced recently that Chrome 55 will ship with memory improvements that reduce the browser's memory hunger.

The first part of the announcement details how Google tracked and measured the improvements. While interesting from a technical point of view, the first couple of paragraphs offer little information on the improvements.

The sites that Google benchmarked memory usage on includes several important properties including Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Imgur, Flipboard and the New York Times.

Google highlights two main areas of improvement in the second half of the post: JavaScript Heap Size Reduction, and Zone Memory Reduction.

The first improves memory usage on low-memory devices through the introduction of a memory reduction mode that fine-tunes garbage collection heuristics to lower memory usage of the JavaScript garbage collected heap.

Google noticed an average heap size reduction of 50% when it ran benchmark tests on Chrome 53 and 55.

chrome 55 memory improvements

The second memory related improvement that went into Chrome 55 benefits the browser on all devices.

One of the main improvements in regards to Zone Memory comes "from reducing memory consumption during background parsing" according to Google. Background parsing allows the JavaScript engine of Chrome to parse JavaScript scripts while the page is loaded.

Google noticed that the parser would keep zones alive longer than necessary. The company's engineers changed the duration which resulted in "reduced average and peak memory usage" in Chrome.

chrome memory zone improvements

Improvements are noticeable on all sites Google used to benchmark the improvements.

Closing Words

The reductions look impressive on first glance, but it remains to be seen if users will notice similar memory use improvements when their version of Chrome is updated to version 55.

Users who don't want to wait can download the Dev or  Canary version of Chrome which are already at version 55 and 56 respectively to see if they notice improvements when using the browser.

Google plans to release Chrome 55 to the release channel in December 2016.




Chrome 55 memory improvements
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Chrome 55 memory improvements
The web browser Google Chrome 55 will use less memory thanks to improvements made to the browser's JavaScript engine.
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  1. Stavros Morten said on October 19, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Why memory reduction is being advertised as being done by google when it was started by Opera team?

  2. Anonymous said on October 13, 2016 at 3:17 am

    Do you have this info for Firefox as an comparison?

    1. kubrick said on October 14, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      im getting an adobe flash plugin is not supported message on my flashgame site…workaround or solutiom.?

  3. Ben said on October 10, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    They should allow the “one process” flag that is in chromium instead of disabling it.

  4. Taomyn said on October 10, 2016 at 9:55 am

    How about Google fixes their damned cached file system as well? I have some heavily used machines and their Windows profiles include Chrome folders nearly 10GB in size and nearly a million files. This is just crazy as the only way to clear it is to completely clear the file system and thus losing valuable site information. It also makes regular virus/malware scans ten times longer than they need to be.

  5. Rudolf Hunk said on October 9, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    I upgraded to version 55 and my Chrome now uses more memory than ever? :P

  6. Kubrick. said on October 9, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    my experience with chrome on linux in terms of memory usage has always been encouraging.Naturally if more tabs are opened then memory usage will increase and this is by chrome design.For goodness sake if you have 4-8gb ram then why worry about memory usage,it is what memory is for,

    1. Parker Lewis said on October 9, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      I’ve heard this argument expressed so many times. Some people have little memory, some people have to run huge programs concurrently. If programmers were all as liberal with RAM as users who believe in this kind of arguments, it’s not 8Gb that we would need to have a fast computer with apps that don’t crash. (The consequence of a lack of RAM is not just an unusably slow computer, it’s crashes too.)

      This can be (somewhat) illustrated by some low RAM Android phones. Android is pretty liberal with RAM because it “believes” in its ability to keep it fully in use and manage it without speed loss or app crashes. But if your phone has less than 1GB you will have to close apps manually if you want your phone to stay snappy. Apps will then be slower to start, but will work better and crash less.

      So yes, IMO an unnecessarily RAM hungry app is simply badly designed.

      1. PBo said on October 9, 2016 at 11:12 pm

        I agree.
        Switching between several projects and activities, I can easily have several dozens tabs and browser windows open simultaneously. I use different desktops to accomodate different activities. I often see 7 or 8 GB virtual memory used only by browsers and had to buy another 8GB of RAM just for that. This is eventually partially swapped.
        However, RAM is not the only issue. The permanent usage of 1 to 8% CPU by each browser can add up to more than 20% CPU being used for nothing by minimized windows for long as the computer is not asleep, so 12 hours a day. The global javascript switch doesn’t prevent it any more in Firefox and firefox-based browsers after version 27 or 28. Why ? I have now been stuck for years at version 27. It’s not extensions because it’s the same all extensions disabled. In chrome and derived browsers, I have found no working global javascript switching extension. When will a browser integrate this option that scripts be stopped in background or minimized windows, please ???? I don’t pay for electricity, CPUs and laptop batteries to have them spoilt this way.

  7. Anonymous said on October 9, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Would be also nice to see memory consumption comparison between Chrome 55, Opera and Firefox 50 (when it’s going to be released once in November).

  8. flyli5411 said on October 9, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Been using SlimJet browser now for few months ,Basically half memory compared to
    Firefox and Chrome ,Also just a really nice browser
    with lots of customizations etc.

  9. Paranam Kid said on October 9, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    I don’t have any confidence in heap size reduction. Opera introduced it on their Dev version, and it DOES NOT work, Opera Dev’s memory footprint just keeps ballooning, reaching 2.5 – 3 Gb in 1 session !!
    In my view HSR is just marketing hype.

    1. bwat47 said on October 10, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with heap size reduction, could just be a bug in the dev version or something

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