Why Is Google Chrome So Slow?

Posted on February 27, 2013 9:00 AM by Rob Williams

One of Google Chrome’s biggest selling-points is its speed, and it happens to be the main one that caused me to jump ship from Firefox a couple of years ago. Since then, however, I’ve found Chrome to go down the same road that Firefox did – fast at first, not after a while. That, along with a couple of other issues, placed me in a spot where I simply didn’t care for any browser. I only continue to use Chrome because it’s familiar, and I rely quite heavily on Sync.

Nonetheless, Alex Hastings of Aptiverse has published a blog post that discusses the reasons why Chrome can be slow – and slower than other browsers. The first aspect tackled has to do with the cache. Unlike most browsers, Chrome doesn’t set a limit on the size of your cache, which leads to a built-up and slow cache over the course of a couple of weeks, or months depending on your surfing habits.

Google Chrome Slow Cache

Most browsers start off fast with an empty cache, but begin to slow down ever-so-slightly over time. However, while a browser like Firefox settles-down and remains consistent for the rest of its life, Chrome just gets worse, as the chart above shows.

Next, there are issues with the WebKit engine, which Chrome uses. This might come as a surprise given WebKit’s attention to performance, but as you can see in the next chart, Chrome tends to suffer the most with recursion overhead when visiting some of the Web’s most-popular sites. This recursion is due to look-ups that are constantly going on in the background as a direct result of the “efficiently”-written code. Imagine having a shelf large enough for just one can of food, which can be filled by finding the right can in the background, versus having a much larger shelf that already has a bunch of cans on it.

Google Chrome Recursion

Further performance analysis is conducted with regards to Chrome’s process isolation, and once again, DOM and post request timings are all over the place, whereas with Firefox, they kept level across-the-board.

Obviously, the goal of this blog post is to show off some of the major problems Chrome exhibits, although it’s not clear if the latter two problems are directly-related to WebKit or not. Another WebKit-based browser used for comparison would have been nice, but regardless, this does show that some work can be done on the Chrome side.

  • http://techgage.com/ Brett Thomas

    Wow. No wonder I love the fox still so much. I’ve seen the cache buildup issues. but didn’t realize the recursive searching issues that compounded it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/deathspawner Rob Williams

      I’ve experienced the issue first-hand on numerous occasions. Every week or so I just purge the cache and whatever else Chrome has stored to get that fresh feeling. I’ve had cache issues occur where YouTube videos wouldn’t even be able to play reliably.

      • http://twitter.com/rpfti Random Pictures

        I have similar issues with YouTube consistently having issues because of Chrome’s cache. I probably need to clear the cache almost every week. I’m a heavy browser though.

  • http://techgage.com/ Marfig

    This news piece just makes me go red eyed.

    I’ve been speaking against Chrome “speed” well since the browsers was starting to become the new kid in the block. Been dissed for it, ignored, laughed at, every time I brought it into discussion. The cache issue was one of my main problems with how Chrome operates, while the issues with the WebKit engine are know for at least 2 years. Meanwhile there’s also the obvious problem of extensions and the fact a browser speed (and to some extent, stability) is affected by the number and quality of the extensions it carries.

    When I moved to Chrome from Firefox I did it over the general quality of Chrome. Never because of its speed, since quite frankly I can’t give a damn whether a browser takes 1.5 seconds to load instead of 1.2 seconds or whether a page loads 0.07 seconds faster. But I always fought against the wrong idea that Chrome was a faster browser. It’s not. never was. And whatever makes it faster after a fresh installation never, ever, is of any relevance to a typical web browser user. Web browsers are event-driven applications. They only do something if I click somewhere. They aren’t spider-like applications that need to address thousands of pages as fast as possible. The time it takes me to move my browser across the page to click on a link is generally bigger than the speed difference between modern browsers. If only the idiotic speed wars ended and the stability wars started!

    Anyways, I’m curious to see how many chrome users will now buy into this piece of news. How many will suddenly “see” how chrome is really just as fast as any other browser, if not slower sometimes. I don’t find any consolation in “I told you so”. Not when I people constantly refused to listen to reason and decided to go instead with market preaching.

    God, I hate to be right all the time!

    • http://www.facebook.com/deathspawner Rob Williams

      The odd thing about browser performance is that it never seems to correlate with real-world experiences that well. Opera usually performs exceptionally well in benchmarks, but I’ve always found it to load and render pages slower than other browsers – noticeably so.

      From a real-world stand-point, I don’t find Chrome slow until the cache gets bloated, at which point I can experience issues.

  • Christopher Tom

    This is way too long to keep loading websites of this browser gets slower. Please add an update for bug fixes and slowness errors for repairing.

  • obadiahorthodox

    I use only Firefox, Chrome is as slow as molasses, Firefox is super fast.

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