More Efficient Memory Management

Fire up an IE7 window with 10 tabs in it and you’ll see this in your Task Manager:

A single iexplore.exe process that spawns a number of threads. The same goes for Firefox and Safari. The problem here is that if a single tab causes the process to crash, all of your open websites go with it. Chrome treats each tab as an individual process, which adds a little more overhead but the benefit is a single website won’t cause all of your other browser tabs/windows to crash.


You shouldn't lose all Chrome windows/tabs due to one misbehaving website/app

A single webpage stalling also won’t cause the rest of the tabs to stall, while the tabs in a Chrome window look physically connected, they are as independent as they get.

Chrome, as a result, will take up quite a bit of space in Task Manager:

Making each tab its own process means that you get memory back from closed tabs much quicker and much more efficiently than with other browsers. Consider this test: 1) Visit www.anandtech.com, 2) open tabs for digg.com, docs.google.com (and login) and www.facebook.com (and login), 3) Close the latter three websites.

I performed that exist test, in that order, and measured memory size after each step. The results are below:

Websites Google Chrome 0.2.149.27 Internet Explorer 7.0.6001.18000 Firefox 3.0.1 Safari 3.1.2
Just AnandTech.com 26MB 30MB 30MB 48MB
AT + Digg + Google Docs + Facebook 105MB 97MB 87MB 104MB
AT (After closing 3 tabs) 38MB 78MB 70MB 107MB

 

Just viewing AnandTech alone, Chrome ended up being the most efficient browser with a 26MB footprint compared to 30MB for Firefox 3.0.1, 30.1MB for IE7 and a whopping 48MB for Safari 3.1.2.

Adding the other three sites brings the totals up to 104MB for Chrome, 104MB for Safari, 96MB for IE7 and 87MB for FF.

It’s closing the tabs that’s the most interesting: only Chrome actually frees up memory upon closing tabs. Chrome’s footprint is still larger than its original 26MB at 38MB, but the remaining three browsers continue using at least 70MB. The argument here is that these other browsers already have memory allocated should you open additional tabs, unfortunately you can quickly run into memory fragmentation issues with the conventional approach should the new tabs require more memory than the ones you just closed.

With Chrome, each tab is its own process, when you’re done with a tab - close it and you get all your memory back right away. You get more efficient usage of memory for newly created tabs.

The independent tabs are also physically independent within the UI, you can drag any tab out of a window and into another one or make it a new window by itself.

Chrome’s multi-process approach is also theoretically better for multi-core systems since you don’t have to worry about exploiting parallelism within a process, you’ve got process-level parallelism giving you more than enough threads to distribute across many cores. Thankfully web browsing isn’t the most CPU intensive and this process-level parallelism doesn’t amount to a huge performance benefit.

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  • Baked - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    The O fanboys will not be pleased. Reply
  • SonicIce - Friday, September 5, 2008 - link

    It's all about the O. Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    I think they will be more mad about praising the first feature (tiled favourite websites on an empty tab) without mentioning, that google took this idea from Opera.

    Actually, there isnt much in terms of usability google didnt pick up from one of the other browsers... so much for innovation. That might end up just being under the hood, if they can deliver... but for now, we're looking at a year of "beta" tag next to the name, I betcha.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    Indeed, I am disappointed that my current (and still favorite) browser is not tested alognside the other ones. I'd love to know how it stacks up.

    I also have a couple of issues with the review:
    - RAM usage goes up after opening then closing 3 tabs. So " when you’re done with a tab - close it and you get all your memory back right away." seems inaccurate.
    - No credit given to Opera for the "Home page" feature, which it premiered.
    - Lack of mouse gestures (which I use all the time, and are my main "positive" reason for still using opera) not mentionned, just un the comments.

    As far as Chrome is concerned, I cannot use it due to its license: I do NOT (and I know of nobody who does) own the rights to everything I display or input in my browser.
    Reply
  • Anubis - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    yes we are very angry :(

    but seriously it should have been tested in this as well
    Reply
  • DanD85 - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Yay, me too, why no love for Opera as it's my main browser now. Although it did crash quite a lot on my HP dv2608tu Vista but I love the interface, the trash button if only they can improve the stability. And it's boot much faster than Firefox 3.01. Reply
  • SilverMirage - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    I'm usin' Opera as we speak. I wish google would try adding mouse gestures. They aren't hard to learn and they are amazingly useful!

    It seems like many browsers are stealing Opera-like ideas...
    Reply
  • npoe1 - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    I think that Opera is the best browser by far. Reply
  • Justin Case - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    Pretty much everything this review mentions as a "change introduced by Google" is simply copied from Opera. As were pretty much all browser features introduced in the past 8 or 10 years, come to think of it. Reply
  • exploderator - Friday, September 5, 2008 - link

    Hmmm. Tabbed browsing, etc. Why even bother listing all. I agree, Opera have been top-tier pioneers in browser innovation. I am using it too, now, and 99% of the time. Have been for years. Tried FF a few versions back, but got tired of foreverever updating extensions, just to make it work like Opera. Now if they made Opera pertable ... oh wait ... Joy! Reply

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