Google decided to disable a RAM-reducing feature that Microsoft created for Chromium-based browsers. While Microsoft claims that the feature would reduce memory usage for Microsoft Edge, and in turn other Chromium-based browsers, an Intel engineer discovered that it comes at the cost of slowing systems down. Google will turn off the feature by default in the upcoming Chrome 85, though it could “reconsider in the future,” according to a Chrome developer.
Google Chrome’s high RAM usage is notorious and often the butt of jokes and memes. Microsoft aimed to reduce the RAM usage of the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge by using a segment heap feature that the company broke down last month. In Microsoft’s testing, memory usage was reduced by up to 27 percent with segment heap compared to legacy heap. Since Edge is Chromium-based, Google initially decided to use the same feature for Google Chrome, which is also Chromium-based.
But earlier this month, an Intel engineer discovered that the segment heap feature slowed system performance on PCs in several tests, including Speedometer2.0, WebXPRT3, and JetStream2. The performance drops particularly affected CPU speeds in testing. Google programmer Bruce Dawson performed more tests and saw similar, and in some cases even worse, slowdowns.
Dawson states in the thread that “The CPU cost (10% slowdown on Speedometer 2.0, 13% increase in CPU/power consumption) is too great for us to keep.” He explains in his comment that the current plan is to disable the feature for Chrome 85 and “reconsider in the future.”
Dawson later adds in another comment, “We are taking the decision to revert this change (for now) very seriously. I think that the increased CPU cost is enough that it will harm battery life. I’m sure it won’t be postponed for long.”
While reducing RAM usage in Chrome is important, it appears that the downside of this particular fix is too great in the opinion of Google. Dawson specifying that the company will reconsider in the future indicates that if this feature or something similar could be implemented without significant drawbacks, that Google could be in favor of utilizing it.