Google Chrome just pulled the plug on the Great Suspender browser extension. The Great Suspender allowed its users to keep lots of tabs open at any time on Chrome without guzzling RAM, which Chrome is notorious for – simply by keeping the tab open but not displaying any of the page’s contents. When a user does need to view the page’s contents, they could just click the ‘frozen’ page and the tab’s contents would load then. So by getting the RAM consideration out of the way (mostly), the Great Suspender engendered certain questionable browsing habits, like believing that I could read everything I discovered on the internet or had been shared with me (and which was worth reading, of course) if only I could keep track of them. At last check, my Great Suspender extension was handling 48 tabs.
Now that Google has eliminated the extension without nary a warning, I – like many thousands of users – find ourselves suddenly bereaved, with a giant tab-shaped hole in our lives. I’m not even sure, even though a few hours have passed, if I’m feeling good or bad about this. The reason appears to be that the extension’s original developer sold it to another, unknown person in June 2020, this person snuck in some malicious code in a subsequent version, and it’s been downhill from there (more info and some technical workarounds here).
There are of course other extensions like this one, especially now that this particular one is no more, but the Great Suspender also came recommended from many of those tech-news sites like Mashable. I also don’t have the competence to independently judge how good and safe each one is. Perhaps more importantly, for tech-semi-illiterate or -illiterate people like me, to discover that extensions like the Great Suspender can include and run malware also imposes another layer of wariness towards add-ons, plug-ins, etc. It’s another issue to evade, yet another point to look out for in articles recommending these things, and until I get a recommendation that’s that robust, I’m going to give extensions of this sort a skip.
This also means I need to pay more attention to how I spend my time online. Without being able to hoard tabs, I need to focus on pages I’m likelier to consume soon instead of mindlessly trawling through everything that strikes my fancy. A laptop with more RAM is also out of the question considering how costly they have become. A couple small mercies: I don’t have to give up the luxury of being able to reading an article long after I’ve discovered it, when I’m in just the mood for it, thanks to Pocket.
Update (8:42 am, February 7, 2021): As one reader pointed out, there’s also One Tab – an extension that allows users to collect links to multiple tabs in a single page with the click of a button, and restores them with similar ease. But while it seems like a different way to execute the same paradigm, of working around Chrome’s RAM needs, it may also impose an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mindset that allows users to ‘collect’ tabs en masse but may not help them remember that they’re there. So using One Tab to dispense the same duties that the Great Suspender did will also require behaviour change, which is costly. So let’s see.