Chrome 57 Throttles Background Tabs To Save Power

Chrome has long been criticized for using too much power and draining notebook battery life, but Google has been taking some steps lately to improve the browser's efficiency. The latest includes limiting background tabs to using only 1% of the CPU’s performance.

Chrome’s High Power Usage

Both Apple and Microsoft have taken advantage of the fact that Chrome isn’t that efficient in terms of power usage. This may not have put too much of a dent on Chrome’s growing market share, but it did negatively impact its image. It seems Google has taken notice of that, and over the past few months, the Chrome team has been working on making their browser more efficient.

Right now, according to Google, background tabs represent as much as a third of Chrome’s overall power usage. That’s quite significant for browser tabs that are effectively being unused.

New Background Throttling Policy

The recently released Chrome 57 aims to improve that by limiting the timing fire rate for individual background tabs that use excessive amounts of power. Chrome, like other browsers, has limited timers in the background to only run once per second.

Via the new throttling policy, Chrome 57 will delay timers to limit average CPU loads to 1% of a core, if an application uses too much CPU in the background. Tabs that play audio or are maintaining real-time connections such as WebSockets or WebRTC will not be affected. Google found that the new throttling policy can lead to 25% fewer busy background tabs.

Background Tab Suspension Roadmap

Chrome’s background suspension roadmap also shows that it will also start throttling loading tasks later this year, without any disruptions to the user experience.

In 2018, Chrome should be able to fully suspend background tabs, unless developers explicitly opt out of this feature. However, around 2020, Chrome will also remove the opt-out mechanism, so all background tabs will be suspended if they’ve remained unused for a few minutes.

A similar policy of complete suspension for the mobile version of Chrome will be enabled later this year, as on mobile, restricting power use is much more important than on the desktop.

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