For most Mac users, in a landslide, Apple’s own Safari is the browser of choice. In fact, Safari is the second most used browser on planet earth, topped by Google’s Chrome which reigns supreme on Android and often tops Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer on Windows PCs.
My Macs have up to half a dozen browsers each; some for testing, some for specific purposes, but all of them are pretty good. The one that gives me the most trouble is, well, surprise! Safari. Kirk McElhearn agrees. Kirk walks through the likes; tabs, Reader, bookmark syncs, etc.
I like Safari’s Reader feature, the way it connects with my keychain to store passwords, and the ability to sync bookmarks, favorites, and other data with my iOS devices.
But there’s one thing I don’t like about Safari: it’s a gourmand.
• a person who enjoys eating and often eats too much.
• synonyms: glutton, overeater, big eater, gobbler, gorger; More a connoisseur of good food.
In other words, Safari can be a memory hog, a glutton that dines on RAM and CPU cycles.
Right now, my iMac’s uptime (the time since my last restart) is nearly four days. And Safari is using 6.81GB of RAM, by far the largest memory hog on my Mac. The app itself is using about 1GB, but each tab, each window also uses RAM.
I keep my Mac running for days because Apple’s Mail.app with SpamSieve captures spam for my family’s iPhones and iPads (there’s no other way to do it except to stop using email). After a few hours Safari becomes the official RAM gourmand. Open up half a dozen websites and the memory consumed by each can hit 300 to 500-megabytes.
Most of those websites are known memory hogs, loaded up with advertising which contains dozens to hundreds of tracking scripts; all of which require memory to operate. Right now, a few ZDNet pages, MacUpdate, Macworld, iMore, and others are pulling down 400-megabytes to 500-megabytes. Each.
As it stands at this moment, the number one memory hog on my Mac with 36GB of RAM is the kernel_task at 1.83GB. After that? Safari’s various open tabs. Then Safari itself. Then Mail and Spark (email) which take up a couple of hundred megabytes each (thanks to dozens of IMAP accounts). This session of my website, McSolo, takes up almost 77-megabytes, which seems odd since the total of the website which displays my last article in a Safari tab– HTML, CSS, graphics, and fonts– runs barely 150k, a page so light it loads in less than a second and makes only nine server requests. That’s 150k, not megabytes.
The same McSolo page loaded into Chrome still requires over 100-megabytes, but a bunch of Chrome Helper oddities require more than 200-megabytes. Put the same ZDNet page into Chrome and it quickly hits 500-megabytes of RAM usage, so whatever problem Safari has seems to be something found in other browsers, too. That single ZDNet page in Chrome uses– total- almost 900-megabytes of RAM.
RAM usage is a dynamic in macOS Sierra as some memory is compressed, other memory is stored on the Mac’s disk drive or SSD, but hoggish memory usage remains more of a problem today because we use more applications than ever, many open and running at the same time. And, memory problems notwithstanding, Safari is the Mac app that causes me the most grief with websites that crash. And that’s without using Flash.