Mac OS X Safari Web Content Process

Or, why is Safari Web Content eating my Mac’s memory?

If you, like me, open up many programs at the same time, and in these programs, open up many documents and tabs at the same time, then, like me, you also keep a close eye on what your CPU and memory are doing.
And if you do that, you most probably have noticed that lately, there is a new kid in town eating your Mac’s memory: Safari Web Content.

So, you wonder, what is this Safari Web Content process that’s working so intensive, while there is already a Safari process working too?
Well, the answer is, that starting from Safari 5.1, Apple’s developers have seriously increased the security of the browser!

Apple Safari Web Content

Apple Safari Web Content

Typically, a malicious browser exploit uses the way your browser parses the visited web content, and start the attack from there. Apple’s engineers have now totally redesigned Safari, and split it up over 2 processes, the main Safari process, and the Safari Web Content process, which does nothing but the actual parsing of the web content. This makes sure that in case of an exploited buffer overflow, or a browser bug, there is a clear limit to the damage that can be done. Even if you get into the process (being the Safari Web Content process), and are able to execute code, you can still only do what the sandbox allows you to do, and will never be able to write files or read someones documents.
And, as a nice extra: if some script on some website hangs your browser, you can kill the Safari Web Content Process, and can continue surfing without having to close Safari and all your open tabs!

 

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