A new power-saving feature is heading to Google Chrome automatically ‘discards’ background tabs to free up memory.
The approach is being trialled in the latest Canary channel builds for Windows and Mac.
‘Chrome will only discard tabs it considers ‘least interesting’ – but how does it decide interestingness?’
But don’t panic: tab discarding does not mean your idle tabs will be forcibly closed. Rather, discarded tabs are temporarily suspended to allow the resources it was using to be allocated elsewhere.
Only tabs that Chrome considers ‘least interesting’ are affected.
Not that you’ll notice when you have discarded tabs as the actual tab (the bit with the favicon and title on it) remains fully visible in the tab strip as normal. The page will instantly reload when switched to, meaning the only real giveaway that something has been suspended is when you go to use it.
When system memory gets low will Chrome’s discarding feature will kick in to kick out the ‘least interesting’ tabs squandering resources.
Exactly what sort of tabs might Chrome consider interesting is unknown for now, but let’s assume high-priority tasks, like a half-written WordPress post or anything else that would throw a modal confirmation should you try and close it normally, are safe.
It will be static web-pages, like a Wikipedia article, that you haven’t looked at for a few days, that Chrome will consider “least interesting”.
The feature is just another prong in Google’s fork aimed at tackling Chrome’s various memory issues. And the fewer tabs left chugging away, less memory the browser needs to keep from doing other, more useful things.
How to Enable Tab Discarding in Chrome
Tab discarding is available for Chrome Canary testers to toggle on (behind a flag, naturally).or toy with manually through a new internal page.
To enable automatic tab discarding in Chrome on the latest Chrome Canary build for Windows or Mac (Linux users will be able to join the fun when the feature hits the Dev channel) just switch on this flag:
Relaunch Chrome as prompted and the feature should work as and when it’s needed.
To manually discard (‘suspend’) background tabs you can play with the options on the following page, available in the latest Dev or Canary channel release of Chrome on Windows or Mac:
Click the ‘discard’ button next to a listed tab and it will silently suspend it.
Do you think this is a good idea? Do you use an extension that performs a similar function? Share your take in the comments below.