Does Keeping Multiple Tabs Open on Your Browser Slow Down Your Internet Speed?
By Josh Fredman
Browser tabs help you to move between the Web pages that you have open. Visually they appear like filing cabinet tabs at the top of your Web browser, hence the name. If you open a lot of tabs at once -- perhaps by restoring a previous browser session, or by opening many links quickly -- your Internet performance will slow down considerably during the time it takes for the browser to load those pages. Afterwards performance will improve again, but with too many tabs open your Internet still won't be as fast as it could be.
Your Internet connection has a fixed amount of bandwidth capacity that limits your top connection speed. Using a lot of browser tabs at the same time doesn't reduce this capacity, and in that regard it doesn't reduce your Internet speed potential either. However, if one or more of these tabs makes continuing requests to the Internet -- such as automatically updating Web pages -- it can eat up some of your bandwidth, leaving you with less for other applications and resulting in slower performance.
Overall, using a lot of tabs does noticeably reduce your Internet speed, and the major reason is RAM usage. Each tab requires memory to function properly, and if you run enough tabs, it starts to overwhelm your computer's RAM. This slows down everything on your system, including your browser's ability to speedily navigate the Internet and download pages and files.
If you open enough tabs, they start to get cluttered visually. In some browsers they shrink so small that you can't tell which tab is which, and in other browsers you have to scroll left and right to see all your tabs because they won't fit on the screen all at once. This makes you spend more time navigating your tabs.
The most immediate step you can take to improve your Internet performance is to manage your tabs diligently, closing the ones you don't need and bookmarking them if necessary for later retrieval. Another option is to download a third-party tab management utility, such as TabJump, TooManyTabs or QuickTabs. If you want faster performance loading new tabs and websites, consider buying a faster Internet service plan to increase your total bandwidth. And for a more long-term solution to computer resource management, you can upgrade your computer's RAM or even the entire computer.
Josh Fredman is a freelance pen-for-hire and Web developer living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, studying engineering, and worked in logistics, health care and newspapers before deciding to go to work for himself.