Firefox Engineer On Memory Leaks

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An explanation about Firefox’s apparently excessive usage of memory in installations of Firefox 1.5 has been posted by one of the project’s lead engineers.

"Guess I'll make that bug a feature, huh?"
-- Jimmy Neutron shows gratitude for Goddard's explosive "play dead" mode in Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

That Firefox memory leak issue is an effect of the Back-Forward cache employed by the browser, according to Firefox lead engineer Ben Goodger. He posted an overview of the issue some users have encountered.

Excessive memory usage while browsing with Firefox led to complaints of poor browser performance, and even crashes. A tradeoff has been taking place as users open more tabs in Firefox, as Goodger explained:

To improve performance when navigating (studies show that 39% of all page navigations are renavigations to pages visited < 10 pages ago, usually using the back button), Firefox 1.5 implements a Back-Forward cache that retains the rendered document for the last five session history entries for each tab. This is a lot of data. If you have a lot of tabs, Firefox's memory usage can climb dramatically.

The number of pages Firefox will cache per tab depends on the memory in the system. When the Firefox preference


is at its default of -1, Goodger noted in a table that systems with 1GB through 4GB of memory will lead Firefox to cache eight pages per tab.

That preference can be set to a value besides -1. A setting of 0 disables caching, but leads to longer page load times, Goodger wrote.

To change the setting, type


into the Firefox address bar and hit Enter. Navigate to the


setting, double-click it, and change it there. Click Ok to accept the new setting.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Firefox Engineer On Memory Leaks
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