Firefox 93 comes with a new feature that allows users to continue using the browser in low-memory situations on Windows. The feature will start unloading certain tabs in order to stop the browser from crashing.
Mozilla Firefox Version 93
Mozilla Firefox's new version 93 browser has arrived, and one of its most notable features is the tab unloading feature. The new feature is available as of the moment to Windows users with macOS as well as Linux users to follow.
The feature will activate when the browser finds itself almost at an out-of-memory crash moment, according to the story by ZDnet. The browser will then start to unload tabs with the least recently used tab to be the first to be unloaded.
Unload Tabs Feature
Tabs that are reportedly in the foreground won't be unloaded with tabs that remain pinned, are using picture-in-picture, or are playing sound. On Windows, the whole threshold is around the 6% mark, as noted by Halik Aftandilian, a Mozilla engineer, wrote in a blog post.
Aftandilian noted that they have experimented with tab unloading on Windows previously. The problem they had experienced in the past was not being able to find the right balance when it came to decreasing the browser's own memory usage while annoying the user due to the slight delay once a tab gets reloaded.
Difficulty in Finding the Balance
That was notably a hard exercise, and they reportedly never got the satisfactory results they wanted. As of the moment, however, they have decided to approach the problem yet again by refining their low-memory detection as well as tab selection algorithm and narrowing the whole action to the case where they are sure that they are providing a user benefit when a browser is almost crashing.
After a month of testing out Firefox's Nightly channel, they were able to find a decrease in browsers as well as content-related crashes. They were also able to find an increase in out of certain memory crashes and an increase when it came to average memory usage.
The engineer noted that the latter actually seems quite counter-intuitive but is then easily explained based on survivorship bias. Browser sessions that actually have quite high memory usage would then have crashed and burned in the past.
As of the moment, however, they are able to survive through unloading tabs just before they would hit the critical threshold. The whole increase in OOM crashes was noted to be counter-intuitive and also hard to explain. Firefox has been innovating with new versions every once in a while with the previous v.86.0.1 and also the previous v90 in the past as well.
The engineer noted that the company is working on improving its understanding of this particular problem as well as the other relevant heuristics. With the clear improved outcomes for its users, however, they felt that there was actually no point in holding back the said feature.
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Written by Urian B.