Google added a Memory Saver feature to the Chrome browser back in February, which hibernates background tabs after a certain amount of time. Chrome might soon give you more control over how the feature works.
Google is working on a change to Memory Saver that allows the “discard time” — the time a tab must be in the background before it is put into hibernation — to be customized. A new feature flag called #high-efficiency-mode-time-before-discard is being tested, which allows the discard time to be one minute, five minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour, four hours, six hours, or 12 hours. A commit message in the Chromium code repository explains that it will be configurable from Chrome’s settings.
The feature is available as a flag in recent Chrome Canary builds, such as version 114.0.5733.0. However, the feature flag was temporarily removed on April 24, as it was causing some browser crashes. It should return sometime soon, then will hopefully be rolled out to everyone after that. New features sometimes roll out within a few weeks, while others remain an experimental flag for several years. This is a relatively minor change, though, so it’s unlikely it will take a long time to arrive.
The ability to change how long a tab remains awake could be helpful for specific browser habits — if you use your tabs more like bookmarks, setting a lower discard time could reduce your memory usage. Spinning those tabs back up does require loading them again, though, so the lower discard times could decrease battery life on laptops and tablets.
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