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, 2) open tabs for, (and login) and (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 Internet Explorer 7.0.6001.18000 Firefox 3.0.1 Safari 3.1.2
Just 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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  • GarionGoh - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    Not sure if it is me, but after using FF3 since its release, I can atest to its speed in loading/rednering web page, almost always faster than IE7. While in the review, we are seeing that IE7 takes the crown for most of the test sites. Anyone any comments?
  • zebrax2 - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    they probably tested it without any add-ons
  • Sylvanas - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    I am loving Chrome, very fast and best of all it's simple to use, nice UI.
  • ubiloo - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    I see the author of the article is looking for new features, etc.
    I think that Aurora (in Mozilla Concept series) is really displaying some... Check here:">
  • imaheadcase - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    Since no other web browser does except IE. Maybe it does?

    I love viewing this site with 4 inches width on each side wasted in FF3. Such a classy design anandtech.../sarcasm
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    IE7 and FF2 both display in the center with a lot of grey space to the sides on my 24" monitor. The table that spills out the end in FF though was all present in IE.

    Of course, all the ads are also present in IE, which is why I never use it.
  • theslug - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    Anandtech seems to display fine for me with Firefox 3.
  • imaheadcase - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Try looking at AT on a 24 inch monitor. The site does not scale accordingly. The forums do, just not main site.
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Define "scale correctly". It is centered, probably 1024 pixels wide, and I would imagine that is exactly what they programmed it to do.
  • haplo602 - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    what about ad blocks ? popup blocker ? session management ? page manuipulation (zoom etc.) ???

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