We no longer recommend the Chrome extension The Great Suspender. Here is why! - gHacks Tech News

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We no longer recommend the Chrome extension The Great Suspender. Here is why!

The Great Suspender is a popular Chrome extension with more than 2 million users on Google's platform alone. The extension is designed to improve the RAM use of the Chrome browser by suspending tabs manually or automatically.

I reviewed The Great Suspender back in 2013 for the first time and found it to be an excellent extension for taming Chrome's RAM hunger. The extension was mentioned in several articles on this site as a recommendation, e.g. in how to handle lots of browser tabs and in how to tame Google Chrome's memory use.

Why we are no longer recommending The Great Suspender

The original developer of the open source extension sold the extension to an unknown entity in June 2020. It is not uncommon for extensions to get sold, and companies contact the creators of popular extensions all the time to find out if the creators are interesting in selling their extensions.

Some exploit the userbases of bought extensions through various means, e.g. by adding or increasing tracking or displaying advertisement, or through semi-legal or malicious means such as injecting ads on visited pages or selling user data to other companies.

The Register reports that the new owner of the extension submitted a new version of the extension to the Chrome Web Store but did not upload it to the GitHub project site.

Version 7.1.8, submitted initially to the Chrome Web Store, included calls to remote scripts and used remote tracking analytics. The update did request additional permissions, including the permission to manipulate all web requests.

The new owner uploaded a new version of the extension after it got suspended by Microsoft from the company's web store. The new version removed the script but it kept the extra permissions that it requested when the previous version was released.

Developers analyzed the code of the extension versions and discovered additional bits of code that added more weight to the "there is something fishy going on" camp. Thibauld Colas published his analysis on GitHub, noting that the Open Web Analytics script that the extension was using, was "another application trying to pass for it".

To sum it up:

  • The Great Suspender was sold to an unknown entity in mid-2020.
  • The new owner uploaded a new version of the extension that requested more permissions, made remote calls and used a remote analytics script.
  • The analytics script in question raised several red flags, one developer citing that it was made to look like an analytics script only.
  • The new owner uploaded a new version to the Chrome Web Store, removing objectionable content but keeping the new permission requests.

Our recommendation

We recommend that you uninstall the extension from your web browsers or switch back to using version 7.1.6 of The Great Suspender; the last version published by the original developer.

If you are looking for alternatives, check out Auto Tab Discard or One Tab.

Now You: what is your take on this? Have another alternative that you recommend?

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We no longer recommend the Chrome extension The Great Suspender. Here is why!
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We no longer recommend the Chrome extension The Great Suspender. Here is why!
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The Great Suspender is a popular Chrome extension with more than 2 million users on Google's platform alone, but we cannot recommend it anymore. Here is why!
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Comments

  1. Lindsay said on January 9, 2021 at 8:47 am
    Reply

    Is it because it requires you to use Chrome?

    1. Iron Heart said on January 9, 2021 at 10:27 am
      Reply

      @Lindsay

      No, it’s because the new extension developer is shady.

      1. AristotleSocratesPlato said on January 10, 2021 at 2:06 pm
        Reply

        Missing the wit AND the point.

  2. Jojo said on January 9, 2021 at 9:15 am
    Reply

    If you are looking for alternatives – BUY MORE RAM! It’s cheap.

    I have a 4 year old machine running an I7-4700k chip with 16GB of RAM but that along with a big page/swap file on a separate SSD is more than enough to allow me to have 205 processes running right now, plus 3, sometimes 4 browsers open at most times, including Chrome with about 20 tabs. I reboot the machine every week or two. Otherwise runs solid.

    1. Crambie said on January 9, 2021 at 5:02 pm
      Reply

      Far more people are using laptops than desktops and it’s becoming the norm that regular ones (non-gaming etc) are no longer upgradable. So for many “cheap” is now buying a new laptop. It’s my number one hate of my macbook, the soldered in ram and ssd (closely followed by dongle hell). I’ve enough ram but if either fail it’s a new motherboard or if I need more ram in the future, well tough.

      1. Anonymous said on January 10, 2021 at 2:37 am
        Reply

        Two things you can always upgrade on laptop are RAM and disk.

        Except Macbook, Macbook is not a laptop. Macbook is for dongle lovers.

      2. Jojo42 said on January 11, 2021 at 6:50 pm
        Reply

        NO. You can’t “always upgrade RAM on laptops”. Maybe your laptop has replaceable modules, but lots of people with minimal tech skills, forced to go online due to COVID-19, are struggling with cheap laptops with only 4GB of SOLDERED IN RAM. For them, The Great Suspender used to be a good option to tame the Chrome memory footprint.

      3. Peterc said on January 12, 2021 at 1:30 am
        Reply

        @Anonymous:

        Macbooks are no longer the only laptops … er, I mean “dongle support platforms” … with non-user-upgradable RAM and SSDs. In fact, it seems to be getting more common (a truly horrible, regressive industry move). I’m pretty sure most (all?) Microsoft Surfaces are “what you buy is what you’re stuck with forever,” and ditto for my dad’s Lenovo Yoga X1 Carbon something-or-other. In fact, I’m pretty sure I read just this morning that the upcoming Microsoft Surface Pro 7 Plus (or something like that) would feature a user-replaceable SSD, like it was a major new feature. Also, even when RAM and SSD *are* technically user-upgradable, few modern laptops have quick-access maintenance hatches, and some laptop chassis are a *major* PITA to open. In short, the RAM itself may be cheap to buy, but *installing* it may *not* be in terms of time and effort.

    2. Robert Morris said on January 9, 2021 at 6:04 pm
      Reply

      Please give me more ram, if it’s cheap you can afford it for me.

      Thanks.

    3. Anonymous said on January 9, 2021 at 7:04 pm
      Reply

      Yep, more memory is a great fix for what ails. Not worth the hassle when a few bucks can make life so much simpler. Why mess around with stupid hacks. Now if your stuck with a chromebook that has no upgrade possiblity then different story, otherwise just do it.

  3. ali said on January 9, 2021 at 9:47 am
    Reply

    ok guys its time to act again lets go to report page
    https://chrome.google.com/webstore/report/klbibkeccnjlkjkiokjodocebajanakg?hl=en&gl=GB
    just remember last time what we did to nano defender?

  4. Peterc said on January 9, 2021 at 10:15 am
    Reply

    Thanks, Martin — I appreciate the heads-up.

  5. fhg said on January 9, 2021 at 11:51 am
    Reply

    lesson. don’t install a billion extensions, just because it’s “helpful”.

    1. crambie said on January 9, 2021 at 5:06 pm
      Reply

      That isn’t the lesson at all. This extension might have been the only extension you had installed and still would have been caught out.

      Perhaps any extension that changes hands needs to be automatically disabled and an alert shown so you can decide if it’s still trustworthy?

    2. Firefox said on January 9, 2021 at 9:44 pm
      Reply

      The real lesson is ‘an app once good can become malware anytime’.

      Except regular malware starts from a clean slate, not 5 million positive ratings, glowing recommendations and half the tech media giving it a thumbs up.

      1. Jojo42 said on January 11, 2021 at 6:59 pm
        Reply

        Firefox and crambie have it right. Doesn’t matter how glowing the reviews are. Doesn’t matter how stand up the original author was. When a program gets sold, it can be turned into malware.
        There should be a mechanism that waves a red flag on owner transfers and forces people to manually click thru to the new app’s page (with a clean review list). Maybe force the new owner(s) to modify the name enough that it’s clearly a different, but related, extension.

      2. GrandpaR said on January 14, 2021 at 1:35 am
        Reply

        Of course, you guys are right about making it obvious when a program changes owners, however, that would crash the value of the program. One large piece of value of any asset is it’s goodwill or reputation. If one has to start with a fresh reputation, the programs loses much value, so it won’t be a popular stand for developers.

      3. trust them said on January 15, 2021 at 12:33 pm
        Reply

        @Jojo42

        > When a program gets sold, it can be turned into malware.

        Any software can be turned into malware. Just because it’s sold has little to do with anything.

        Also, a EULA can be changed without anything being sold, hence this whole “sold” thing is rather moot.

        What it all comes down to is who you trust, who you don’t, and why.

  6. sebas said on January 9, 2021 at 12:12 pm
    Reply

    Thanks. Can you do this more often? Some seemingly trustworthy extensions in chrome web store have not been updated for a long time. I can not check at the moment, but I believe lazy tabs is one of them. Others, like the block Facebook extension seems to have disappeared.No one writes about that.

  7. Yuliya said on January 9, 2021 at 1:24 pm
    Reply

    Download more RAM. Easy.
    Though sreiously, Chromium performs just fine on my SP7 with only 8GiB of RAM and no pagefile. 8 GiB is pretty much standard these days for any new machine, and most people leave the pagefile enabled too. You don’t really need this kind of extensions.

  8. Anonymous said on January 9, 2021 at 2:33 pm
    Reply

    Thanks Martin for the heads-up, although I don’t use Chrome, and haven’t for years.
    I am noticing extensions on Firefox asking for new permissions, and for some I can’t understand why. Needless to say, those extensions do not get permission, and if I think that it is advisable, I remove them from Firefox.

    Perhaps you could give us a list of shady extensions on Firefox.

    1. LMFAO said on January 11, 2021 at 2:47 am
      Reply

      Christ, why can’t you unzip the XPI and look at the manifest yourself to see why it’s requesting additional permssions? It’s really not that dang hard to audit JavaScript and tell if the extension is doing something shady. Why make someone else do it for you? Their time is just as valuable as yours.

      1. Jojo42 said on January 11, 2021 at 7:03 pm
        Reply

        Christ LMFAO. What didn’t we all think of that? Maybe because lots of people online these days aren’t software geeks? Or have time to learn a new programming language and framework well enough to do a security audit?

      2. some peeps said on January 15, 2021 at 12:55 pm
        Reply

        @LMFAO

        > Why make someone else do it for you? Their time is just as valuable as yours.

        Hmm..

        Ghacks does the work, shares it and gets compensated OR everyone does that same work again and again and again and again and again and again… without compensation.

        Seems rather obvious to me which is the most valuable choice here, but then, I’m not an idiot troll.

  9. finoderi said on January 9, 2021 at 2:55 pm
    Reply

    “…to find out if the creators are interesting in selling their extensions.”

  10. Anonymous said on January 9, 2021 at 3:43 pm
    Reply

    “The new owner uploaded a new version of the extension after it got suspended by Microsoft”

    Do you mean Google? Or how can Microsoft suspend extensions in the Chrome Web Store?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 9, 2021 at 4:07 pm
      Reply

      The new owner of the extension. Microsoft did suspend it in its own extensions store, not on the Chrome Web Store.

    2. Marco said on January 9, 2021 at 4:18 pm
      Reply

      “The new owner uploaded a new version of the extension after it got suspended by Microsoft from the company’s web store.”

      “the company’s web store”
      company = Microsoft

  11. Tre said on January 9, 2021 at 7:42 pm
    Reply

    Itttttttt’s gone.

    I’m on Vivaldi (because it’s PRETTY heheheh) and thought TGS used to be a bit less hoggy with the resources. I’m trying the [still on github] extension “the great discarder” LOL. I love the way it sounds. It has users but hasn’t been updated a lot, and apparently doesn’t have any visual cue when a tab is ‘discarded’ (hibernated) which sucks —maybe some lovely soul here would fork it? Otherwise I’m relying on vivaldi to show hibernated tabs. (That’s what this is, right: ‘hibernating’ tabs automatically? I suppose that suspender icon would eat up some resources.. plus all TGS’s other “problems” Thanks for the head’s up.

    I also have OneTab and actually keep that thing organized: WAY better than bookmarks (on vivaldi, or maybe all chromium? Vivaldi bookmarks seem nearly useless compared to [pre-57] FF but I now have a task script to export the file regularly because OneTab crashed and burned last fall, and I ended up restoring from a month-old backup. I had a GAP and spent a day going through my history to find and toss those links into the OneTab file.

    Any other tips to reduce memory usage on chromium (or Vivaldi in particular) would be appreciated. I have a userscript that slows down YT cpu hits, but otherwise I’m limited to about 20 open tabs before crash. /facepalm

  12. Ray said on January 9, 2021 at 9:36 pm
    Reply

    I stopped using The Great Suspender a few years ago due to lack of updates. A good alternative is Auto Tab Discard.

  13. Firefox said on January 9, 2021 at 9:38 pm
    Reply

    Platform holders for mobile apps an browser extensions should stop allowing ownership changes.

    Any app/addon whose ownership changes should at least have its reputation reset to 0, require a new developper account and not allow the original account to be used any more.

  14. Coty Ternes said on January 9, 2021 at 10:32 pm
    Reply

    A good alternative is the browser Vivaldi! Built in tab suspension, faster, more secure, and it is the most customizable browser there is!

  15. VioletMoon said on January 9, 2021 at 11:35 pm
    Reply

    Whatever–if you decide to use 7.1.6, and maybe it will alleviate some paranoia [although scripts abound for analytics–https://www.downscripts.com/open-web-analytics_php-script.html–there are some instructions most users will need, maybe not:

    https://github.com/greatsuspender/thegreatsuspender/tree/v7.1.6

    Download and drag into window; the .zip will install itself.

    Nice to know, but “need” to know? Questionable. It’s one small extension in an ocean of privacy consuming extensions.

    1. Questionable_brain said on January 12, 2021 at 7:18 am
      Reply

      You can grab and use them all.

  16. Matthew Borcherding said on January 10, 2021 at 3:49 am
    Reply

    Thank you, Martin, as always!

    Great Suspender now removed and replaced with Auto Tab Discard.

    I’m using OneTab as well, but that doesn’t really preform the same function. It’s more of a “cleanup all of these too darn many tabs!” utility. Then you only re-open what you really need.

  17. ULBoom said on January 10, 2021 at 4:17 am
    Reply

    I thought Google had some oppressive new review process for extensions. Maybe only extensions that could somehow take some of their revenue, IDK.

    Same comments as above about RAM: I can’t really get browsers to suck up huge amounts of RAM unless a site gets messed up but I only use a few simple extensions and don’t keep many tabs open.

    Nothing more embarassing than someone starting a presentation and watching it freeze because 20 tabs are open in their browser. “Get organized and we’ll come back!” Yeah, not fun.

    RAM upgrades are cheaper these days but all our devices have to be upgraded in pairs so each jump requires two modules.

    Years ago, when I was doing analysis work, I had this really cool Intergraph workstation with dual processors and 1 GB of RAM. The RAM alone cost $1000 and it was a fantastic computer, so fast! The cheapest chromebook may be 10x faster.

  18. Doug said on January 10, 2021 at 10:49 am
    Reply

    This is what happens when multibillion dollar corporations refuse to spend a little money to review the code of extensions distributed by their stores.

    Google and Microsoft have created an ecosystem that allow this problem to exist.

  19. mk7z said on January 10, 2021 at 1:04 pm
    Reply

    ATTN: Martin Brinkmann

    According to my notes about your review of OneTab (from 2013) you didn’t particularly care for it. Why do you recommend it now?

    Also, doesn’t OneTab have significant privacy drawbacks?… E.g., this is at GitHub:

    “OneTab sends all your tabs data to their servers, and also to Google (twice). You can search for other people’s data too:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=*+site:one-tab.com

    This is pretty well known.”

    https://github.com/greatsuspender/thegreatsuspender/issues/1175#issuecomment-754828434

    Also, when I used OneTab, it appeared to be completely unsupported. I never got a response from the developer(s) to any inquiry or other communication.

  20. Jojo42 said on January 11, 2021 at 7:10 pm
    Reply

    Agreed, mostly.
    Just because an extension is sold shouldn’t mean the developer should be forced to hang up their keyboard and never darken the interwebs again. Agree 100% on forcing a sold app to have a new extension-page/review-list/reputation and force users to manually click-thru from an announcement on the old extension if they want the new one.

  21. Clemens Ratte-Polle said on January 14, 2021 at 1:59 am
    Reply

    I use Tiny Suspender :)

    Often forgotten requirement for Tab Suspenders:
    Suspended tabs must readable also as saved bookmarks by any Browser without this extension.

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