I regularly and bitterly complain about the shortcoming of my browsers. As a prolific internet consumer I have grown into the habit of having many windows open, which have in turn many tabs open. At the time of writing I am running the latest build of webkit as my primary browser, if I ask it to quit (the only way you can find out how many windows and tabs you have open) it reports back:
(Notice how webkit is reported as Safari (same in the menu bar (which is extra confusing if you happen to have both open at the same time!))
As it happens I recently restarted my computer so I don’t have Safari 4 also open, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. I’ll tend to keep some things running in Safari 4 just in case webkit crashes (which as it’s a nightly build it does quite often, but less frequently than Safari with this many tabs open). I do however have Firefox open, which it turn has five windows, with forty tabs open.
I also have about half a dozen custom Fluid browsers open at any one time to take care of the custom web services I use on a daily basis such as Google Reader (always over 1000+ articles to read… why oh why), Github (which my brother reliably informs me is the Geeks Facebook), Facebook (for us mere mortals), Pivotal Tracker (for my projects); in fact if I tend to use a service everyday I tend to have a fluid browser for it…
It was unsurprising then when I read Sal Cangeloso’s post entitled Why can’t I run 80 tabs in Firefox I experienced an all too familiar sense of dÃ©jÃ vu as he described his problem. My sprawling number of tabs is also generated by the number of ideas I have floating about in my head, a simple query to google to answer a basic problem can often lead to 10-20 tabs on its own, assuming you don’t stumble across anything interesting that is… if so add another 10?
Regular crashes in Safari 4 forced me to try out Webkit nightly builds (which are surprisingly more stable), unlike him I abandoned Firefox as a primary browser a good deal of time ago as I have never found it able to cope with a 100+ tabs Â (which I frequently reach by the end of the day) without it becoming unresponsive or crashing; but still I suffer frequent crashes and all the attenuated irritation.
Like Sal I also initially thought that it was perhaps my older system, and before I upgraded earlier this year to a shiny new MBP (2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB 1067 MHz DDR3 RAM) it was much worse, but to be frank it’s not much better. Since fleeing from Safari 4 to Webkit Nightly I have tended to restart and reload my browser once a day (having it restore all previously open tabs), which has certainly made things better but not perfect.
It seems to me that there is a significant problem with web browsing on this scale. I have tried to use various web services to organise it efficiently from delicious, where I have thousands of bookmarks (once bookmarked never revisited – usually much quicker to just re-google) to google’s own bookmarking service (useless) to activating the full web history storage. Currently I am finding Safari / Webkit’s coverflow history helpful but its not enough.
Personally I think more and more of us are using the web in this prolific way and whilst I agree with Sal that there is definitely something up with our browsers I think that Google and the major browser developers have failed to adapt quickly enough to this changing phenomenon. Or offer us any tools to make it easier…
For example why in OS X.6 can’t I click on the Safari or Webkit icon in the Dock and see a list of sites I currently have open? When I have 20 tabs open in a single window I won’t necessarily remember which one it is, and so I end up cycling away through innumerable tabs. And though I try to keep them organised, being able to move tabs to different windows has helped, it’s certainly laborious.
The bookmarking tools in Safari / Webkit in particular are laughably basic. I use my menu bar bookmarks for bookmarklets such as my current favourites: Smush.it, TinyURL!, Translate into English, Send to Site Sucker, Google Bookmark… and there we go, googling a source url for Smush.it told me there was a wordpress plugin (which I’ll have to install) and now I have another tab open.
There does not seem to be much innovation in this area and I can reassure Sal that he’s not the only one suffering and that there has to be an improvement or progress in these areas soon (or it might just drive me mad!).