Google has revealed this week that its fixes for the Spectre CPU vulnerabilities have caused its Chrome browser to use more memory. In a blog post, spotted by Thurrott, Google details its new Site Isolation feature for the latest Chrome 67 release. It’s a feature, now enabled by default, that’s used to protect against the Spectre side-channel attacks that use the speculative execution features of most processors to access parts of memory that should be restricted. Unfortunately, it has also increased Chrome RAM usage as a result.
“Site Isolation does cause Chrome to create more renderer processes, which comes with performance tradeoffs,” admits Google software engineer Charlie Reis. “There is about a 10-13 percent total memory overhead in real workloads due to the larger number of processes.” That won’t be welcome news to lots of Chrome users who often point out that the browser uses a lot of RAM. An increase of 10 percent is significant, especially on systems with 4GB of RAM or less.
Chrome memory usage will increase across Windows, Mac, and Chrome OS as a result of this change, but Google is working to reduce the impact. “Our team continues to work hard to optimize this behavior to keep Chrome both fast and secure,” explains Reis. Google has also been optimizing Chrome after Microsoft publicly called out Google’s browser for being bad for laptop battery life.