Posted by: felipe | April 22, 2013

Summer of Code project – about:memory for real people

This entry is part of a series of posts about some of our proposed GSoC projects. See here the introduction blog post.

about:memory for real people

What is it: about:memory is a tool that is used by Firefox developers to diagnose and understand the memory usage behaviors of the browsers. It has been immensely useful for us to find bugs in the MemShrink project and validate the fixes to those bugs. However, it is too focused on Firefox’s internals for the browser developers, but the available data there could be presented in different ways to also help web developers and regular users who wants to understand how each website consumes memory.

Example use case: User opens the new about:memory and sees that website A (tab 1) is taking 15mb and website B (tab 2) is taking 12mb. After 30min, the user opens the tool again, now to see website A still taking 17mb and website B taking now 30mb. They then can conclude that website B is consuming more memory as time passes, while website A is able to maintain its memory requirements steady.

What does it involve:

  • looking into the current about:memory and understanding the existing data available and its breakdowns
  • proposing various different ways to visually present that data and interact with it (e.g., sorting, time slicing, merging tabs from the same domain, animating data over time, etc.)
  • proposing an existing open-source JS dataviz graphics library to be used for the project
  • interact with the Firefox developers who work on memory optimization and provide feedback for more data that would be useful if it were available
  • should be done as an add-on using the Add-on SDK

Non-goals: This project will not remove the existing about:memory, but will create a new one. Also, you should not try to create your own graphics library as part of the project, as there’s not enough time available to do both things during the official schedule.

Where to start: You should start by looking into the current about:memory and its code and to understand how data is retrieved from the memory measurements code. You then need to analyze the available data to undestand its meaning and start thinking on how you want to present that in a more visually interactive way. The usage of the Add-on SDK will also be required but will be very limited to packaging and setting up the add-on, as the main code will be a simple html page that implements your new about:memory (along with its supporting CSS and JS files).

Skills needed: JavaScript and CSS skills, and experience with data visualization. Experience with one JS graphics library would be great.

What is expected in your project proposal: A great understanding of the project, its goals and non-goals, and a good idea on how to approach each of the features involved and how to time slice them. A proposal for at least 4 different ways to visualize the data, describing what type of graphs will be used and the possible interactions that it will provide. The selection of the graphics library to be used. Links to open-source code (e.g. a github profile) that you have produced (specially ones involving data visualization).


  1. […] about:memory for real people […]

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