Some more bad news for Google Chrome advocates. The proclaimed lightweight browser now utilizes more resources due to Spectre security fixes. Google revealed just this week that its fixes for the CPU flaws that were brought to light earlier this year are causing the Chrome browser to use much more system memory to run. Spectre uses the speculative execution features of most processors to access parts of memory that should be restricted. In response, the latest Chrome 67 release contains a new “Site Isolation” feature that is used to protect against the Spectre side-channel attacks. In turn, it has also unfortunately increased Chrome RAM usage.
The site Isolation feature is active by default in the browser and does cause more processes to occur, which results in a performance tradeoff and higher hardware utilization. About a 10 to 13 percent increase in memory overhead will be realized with the new version of Chrome. Practically applying this overage in normal workloads will certainly be recognizable, especially on those systems with only 4GB of RAM.
Increased overhead of RAM will affect Windows, Mac, and Chrome OS because of the Site Isolation feature; however, Google is working on reducing the taxing “improvement.” Here, Chrome is facing yet another negative association putting it out of the running for best browser currently available. Coming immediately after being called out for contributing to poor laptop battery life, the Chrome team will need to work extra hard to reestablish its browser’s image.