Who's Winning The Browser Memory Usage War?

Image: Eric Rahm

Mozilla has had a tough run of late, but the company has been working hard on Firefox, even at the risk of alienating developers. For users however, things might be looking up. The browser is no longer the RAM devourer it once was — in fact, Google Chrome might hold that crown now.

Software developer Eric Rahm, who works for Mozilla's "MemShrink" group, decided to pit Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer 11 against each other in a battle of memory usage.

Turns out Firefox has come a long way since the early days of being a "memory hog" (to quote Mozilla itself) and comes out ahead of Chrome in almost all the tests Rahm run. If you'd like specifics, Rahm provides details of his methodology, including browser versions, in his blog post.

Now, there are a few things to consider. Chrome's "content" processes are one-per-tab, compared to Firefox's shared configuration, which Rahm set up as two, four and eight for the benchmarks. It is possible to make Chrome act a bit more like Firefox, using the "—process-per-site" argument, but that's not the browser's default setting.

This shared usage naturally results in lower memory usage by Firefox, though it does increase the chances of a tab crash bringing down other tabs.

You're probably wondering why IE 11 is used in place of Edge. According to Rahm, Microsoft's latest browser didn't want to follow the rules of the test:

Edge was disqualified because it seemed to bypass the hosts file and wouldn’t load pages from unique domains. I can do measurements so I might revisit this, but it wouldn’t have been a fair comparison as-is.

So, if you're on the fence about your choice of browser and want the "slimmest" option available, it might be time to give Firefox another look.

[Eric Rahm, via gHacks]

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