Google implements backward-forward cache in Chrome 79 Canary

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 20, 2019
Google Chrome

Google engineers revealed in February 2019 that they were working on a new feature in Chrome that would speed up the backward and forward browsing behavior of the browser.

Google wanted to improve the performance of back and forward operations in the company's Chrome web browser and designed a cache that would keep pages in memory so that they could be displayed more quickly in the browser when users activated the back or forward buttons.

The feature had not been implemented in Chrome at that time, not even in Chromium or Chrome Canary. A recent update of Google Chrome Canary introduced a new flag in the browser that controls the caching feature; it is disabled by default but may be enabled by users. The feature will become available on all supported operating systems that Chrome is available on with the exception of Apple iOS.

chrome back forward cache improvement

Google notes that the flag has been implemented mainly for development purposes and that users who don't work on the feature should not enable it because it could break various functionality.

Back-forward cache

Enables back-forward cache. NOTE: this feature is highly experimental and will lead to various breakages, up to and including user data loss. Do not enable unless you work on this feature – Mac, Windows, Linux, Chrome OS, Android

We did not notice any breakage during tests but your mileage may vary especially if you work with forms or other interactive content in Chrome and use the functionality.

Here is how you enable the cache:

  1. Make sure that you run at least Chrome 79 (Canary currently).
  2. Load chrome://flags/ in the browser's address bar.
  3. Search for "forward".
  4. Set the flag Back-forward cache to Enabled.
  5. Restart Google Chrome.

Google Chrome will load pages from a memory cache once enabled when a user activates back or forward buttons or functionality in the browser which may speed up the performance of the process by up to 19% according to Google.

Chrome users need to be aware that the browser will load the page from memory (cache) and not from the site; this may lead to freshness issues if site content changed in the meantime. The only option at this point is to reload the page to get the updated content.

Chrome is not the only browser that uses a cache to speed up back and forward navigation. Both Firefox and Safari use similar techniques to speed up these operations in the respective browsers.

The new cache will impact Chrome's memory usage as more data needs to be stored in memory. It is too early to tell by how much the browser's memory usage will increase once a stable version of the feature lands in Chrome.

Now You: Do you mind more memory usage if features speed up the browser? (via Techdows)

Google implements backward-forward cache in Chrome 79 Canary
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Google implements backward-forward cache in Chrome 79 Canary
Google Chrome 79 (Canary) features a new experimental flag to improve the performance of back and forward operations in the browser.
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  1. Rick said on September 20, 2019 at 11:12 pm

    Firefox may have this, but it’s hard to notice for some reason. Maybe it’s today’s Internet speeds, since I recall when using Old Opera and specifically configuring for this feature, it made a night-and-day difference. On most sites, you could instantly go back and forth between pages.

    But certainly not all sites, such as the ones pushing the envelope at the time with AJAX etc. It’ll be interesting to see how Google handles those, since when you go “back” on such sites you may not end up where you expect.

  2. Anonymous said on September 20, 2019 at 10:47 pm

    Nice, it will finally support something that was already inside Opera and Firefox in early 2000s.

  3. Vítor I said on September 20, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    Congratulations Google, in 2019 you innovate with something that was implemented in 2005 by the (old) Opera Browser (version 8.50).

  4. chesscanoe said on September 20, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    I do not mind more memory use in and of itself, but I rarely go backward or forward much, and when I do it is fast enough as it is for me. If a tab is opened long enough to doubt its currency, I am much more likely to press F5 to refresh the tab.

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