Battle of the Web Browsers – Who Uses Less Memory?


Battle of the Web Browsers – Who Uses Less Memory?


Within our group of web developers, we regularly review how a website will render across all web browsers to ensure everyone gets an equal experience. Of course, everyone has their favorites and everyone enjoys complaining about all the others.

At work, I typically use Chrome or Firefox as I like the simplicity of Chrome and the add-ons of Firefox…so it just depends on what Im doing at the time. However, my work PC is fairly powerful so I do not have to consider the ‘weight’ of a browser.

This is different at home.

Our desktop computer that sits in our home office is older than my kids – I bought this beast to move into the new millenium. That said, it is a work horse that simply will not die…and I am someone that cannot throw away anything that works, even if it is seriously limping.

This brings me to my post: What browser is the lightest, using the least amount of precious memory as it does its basic functions? I was surprised with what I found.

The Tests

To test this, I decided to use two scenarios:

  1. Open browser, go to  Record the memory usage.
  2. Open browser, go to  Log in.  Record the memory usage.

The idea was to test the most basic operation first, then test with slightly more memory being burned through intense javascript use.

The Contenders

I chose the major players in the browser game, knowing that some of the others arent known for being lighter and generally command less mainstream respect anyway.  I used:

  1. Firefox 3.5.08
  2. Firefox 3.6
  3. Internet Explorer 8.0.6001
  4. Chrome 5.0.342 Dev
  5. K-Meleon 1.5.4

Those of you unfamiliar with K-Meleon should be told in advance that it will win this test, hands down.  If uyou have an old, slow machine that runs Windows – you should run K-Meleon.  It uses the same layout engine as Firefox (Gecko), but uses the native Windows API for the user interface.  This results in a much lighter browser as it doesnt require its own user ‘weight’.

Off To The Races

So, with all the contenders closed – the battle began.  Here were the results:

Browser Viewing Google  Viewing Facebook 
FF 3.5.08 42,344k 66,531k
FF 3.6 37,636k 60,688k
Chrome 5.0  36,280k 65,964k
IE 8.0  27,892k 58,316k
K-Meleon 21,648k 33,316k

Of the ‘mainstream’ browsers, Internet Explorer was the clear winner.  Unexpected.  Of course, an argument could be made that IE uses some libraries or resources that are already running under Windows – but Im jsut comparing the data for entertainment purposes (sad, I know).

Interesting Notes

A few interesting things were found that I didnt expect, and that I am sure someone will chime in on:

  1. In Chrome and IE, there was only one instance of the browser running and only a single tab – but once I had entered the Facebook URL, a seperate ‘image’ appeared in the Windows Task Manager.  This essentially doubled the amount of memory used.
  2. In Firefox 3.6, it opens and loads Google at 37, 636k; but then slowly grows in memory usage as along as I left it open.  After a couple of minutes, seemed to level off at around 67,000k.  This will probably be fixed in the next release of FF as 3.6 just came out, but always interesting to note.


Firefox, the cult-followed leader in the mainstream bracket, is the unrivaled hog. 

IE has gotten significantly better at handling itself in the real world.  No more is IE the resource sucking hog just waiting to devour whatever you fed her.

Chrome looks good, but still isnt as light as IE in basic work.  However, Id guess that a resource intensive web application would still run best under this browser.

Those conclusions noted, I think the main thing we learned today is that Dalton had some free time this morning that probably could have been better spent in any number of endeavors.  Next time, I’m going to ride my bicycle or blog about Twitter.

More About the Author

Dalton Parsons

Global Director of Strategic Communications
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