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Google: Chrome’s going to stop strangling your PC

Google Chrome

Google finally promises significant performance improvements to its Chrome browser

It started out as the browser that couldn’t be topped for speed. Now, it can drag a PC to its knees with only a handful of tabs open. Which is why Google is promising its Chrome browser will stop swallowing up all of your PC’s available memory. 

The company is introducing a number of new memory-saving techniques into the browser in a bid to shed its growing reputation as a resource hog. Firstly, the browser will now use “idle periods” when it’s not busy rendering web pages to “aggressively clean up old, unused memory”. Anyone who’s opened Windows’ Task Manager with Chrome open will have seen multiple entries for the browser, with each open tab afforded its own process. Google wants to reduce the amount of memory each of these processes is consuming.

In practice we found that this reduced website memory usage by 10% on average, but the effect is even more dramatic on complex web apps,” says Gmail product manager Ryan Schoen in a Google blog post explaining the effect of these changes. “For example, we can free up nearly a quarter of the memory used by the tab.”

Google’s also making changes to the way the browser automatically restores tabs from a previous sessions when you re-open the browser. Previously, it will have restored all the tabs in the order that they were opened. Now, the most recently accessed tabs will be restored first, and if your computer starts running low on memory midway through the restoration, Chrome will stop reopening the remaining tabs. 

Finally, Google’s promising that Chrome will stop sucking the juice from laptop batteries so quickly by killing off unnecessary Flash animations. In Schoen’s words, Chrome will “auto-pause Flash content that’s not central to a website”, which he claims improves laptop battery life by 15%. Google doesn’t define exactly what Flash content it’s talking about, but it’s pretty safe to assume the company’s targeting animated adverts. 

Google says the performance enhancements are being introduced into the browser over the coming weeks, but “there’s much more in the works for upcoming versions of Chrome”. 

Chrome has followed a similar trajectory to Firefox, which started off as the lightweight alternative to Internet Explorer before slowly becoming a resource hog, before it was usurped by Chrome. Google’s browser has incrementally added new features and background processes that often leave it as the most memory hungry application on a PC, forcing users to consider alternatives such as Windows 10’s new Edge browser or even the more streamlined modern version of Firefox.  

Whether Google can truly shed the flab that the Chrome browser has accumulated over the past few years will be revealed in the next few weeks. 

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