How do you detect memory limits in JavaScript?

Can browsers enforce any sort of limit on the amount of data that can be stored in JavaScript objects? If so, is there any way to detect that limit?

It appears that by default, Firefox does not:

var data;
$("document").ready(function() {
  data = [];
  for(var i = 0; i < 100000000000; i++) {
    data.push(Math.random());
  }
});

That continues to consume more and more memory until my system runs out.

Since we can't detect available memory, is there any other way to tell we are getting close to that limit?

Update

The application I'm developing relies on very fast response times to be usable (it's the core selling point). Unfortunately, it also has a very large data set (more than will fit into memory on weaker client machines). Performance can be greatly improved by preemptively loading data strategically (guessing what will be clicked). The fallback to loading the data from the server works when the guesses are incorrect, but the server round trip isn't ideal. Making use of every bit of memory I can makes the application as performant as possible.

Right now, it works to allow the user to "configure" their performance settings (max data settings), but users don't want to manage that. Also, since it's a web application, I have to handle users setting that per computer (since a powerful desktop has a lot more memory than an old iPhone). It's better if it just uses optimal settings for what is available on the systems. But guessing too high can cause problems on the client computer too.

Answers:

Answer

While it might be possible on some browsers, the right approach should be to decide what limit is acceptable for the typical customer and optionally provide a UI to define their limit.

Most heavy web apps get away with about 10MB JavaScript heap size. There does not seem to be a guideline. But I would imagine consuming more than 100MB on desktop and 20MB on mobile is not really nice. For everything after that look into local storage, e.g. FileSystem API (and you can totally make it PERSISTENT)

UPDATE

The reasoning behind this answer is the following. It is next to never user runs only one application. More so with counting on the browser having only one tab open. Ultimately, consuming all available memory is never a good option. Hence determining the upper boundary is not necessary.

Reasonable amount of memory user would like to allocate to the web app is a guess work. E.g. highly interactive data analytics tool is quite possible in JS and might need millions of data points. One option is to default to less resolution (say, daily instead of each second measurements) or smaller window (one day vs. a decade of seconds). But as user keeps exploring the data set, more and more data will be needed, potentially crippling the underlying OS on the agent side.

Good solution is to go with some reasonable initial assumption. Let's open some popular web applications and go to dev tools - profiles - heap snapshots to take a look:

  • FB: 18.2 MB
  • GMail: 33 MB
  • Google+: 53.4 MB
  • YouTube: 54 MB
  • Bing Maps: 55 MB

Note: these numbers include DOM nodes and JS Objects on the heap.

It seems to be then, people come to accept 50 MB of RAM for a useful web site. Once you build your DOM Tree, fill your data structures with test data and see how much is ok to keep in RAM.

Using similar measurements while turning device emulation in Chrome, one can see the consumption of the same sites on tablets and phones, BTW.

This is how I arrived at 100 MB on desktop and 20 MB on mobile numbers. Seemed to be reasonable too. Of course, for occasional heavy user it would be nice to have an option to bump max heap up to 2 GB.

Now, what do you do if pumping all this data from the server every time is too costly?

One thing is to use Application Cache. It does create mild version management headaches but allows you to store around 5 MB of data. Rather than storing data though, it is more useful to keep app code and resources in it.

Beyond that we have three choices:

  • SQLite - support was limited and it seems to be abandoned
  • IndexDB - better option, but support is not universal yet (can I use it?)
  • FileSystem API

Of them, FileSystem is most supported and can use sizeable chunk of storage

Answer

In Chrome the answer is Sure!

Go to the console and type:

performance.memory.jsHeapSizeLimit; // will give you the JS heap size
performance.memory.usedJSHeapSize; // how much you're currently using

arr = []; for(var i = 0; i < 100000; i++) arr.push(i);
performance.memory.usedJSHeapSize; // likely a larger number now
Answer

Since a web app can't have access to any system-related information (like the available amount of memory), and since you would prefer not having to ask users to manually set their performance settings, you must rely on a solution that allows you to get such information about the user's system (available memory) without asking them. Seems impossible ? Well, almost...

But I suggest you do the following : make a Java applet that will automatically get the available memory size (e.g. using Runtime.exec(...) with an appropriate command), provided your applet is signed, and return that information to the server or directly to the web page (with JSObject, see http://docs.oracle.com/javafx/2/api/netscape/javascript/JSObject.html).

However, that would assume your users can all run a Java applet within their browsers, which is not always the case. Therefore, you could ask them to install a small piece of software on their machines that will measure how much memory your app should use without crashing the browser, and will send that information to your server. Of course, you would have to re-write that little program for every OS and architecture (Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Android...), but it's simpler that having to re-write the whole application in order to gain some performance. It's a sort of in-between solution.

I don't think there is an easy solution. There will be some drawbacks, whatever you choose to do. Remember that web applications don't have the reputation of being fast, so if performance is critical, you should consider writing a traditional desktop application.

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