Try These Alternatives to ‘The Great Suspender’ Extension

Illustration for article titled Try These Alternatives to The Great Suspender Extension

Screenshot: David Murphy

I’ve been a fan of The Great Suspender extension for years. Even when Google would drop new features into its Chrome browser to reduce the resources inactivate browser tabs eat up, I still trusted The Great Suspender to “inactivate” them for me to lessen the load on my system. But The Great Suspender is not to be trusted any longer—so much so, that Google removed it from the Chrome Web Store  in February 2021 for being “malware.”

Before we get to the alternatives you can use instead of this once-helpful extension, Dr. Colin McMillen, lead developer at SemiColin Games, shed some light on extension’s new nefarious parts a month before its removal:

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Here’s the longer story: The Great Suspender got a new maintainer (formerly Dean Oemcke), and this unknown entity dropped a few silent updates to new builds of the extension allowing it to connect to various third-party servers and execute code. The extension suddenly started asking for new permissions as well, like an all-encompassing ability to mess with your browser’s web requests. As Github’s TheMageKing wrote in November of last year:

“That lets the extension do what it pleases, including inserting ads, blocking sites, forcible redirects…. This change was supposedly in order to enable new screenshot functionality, but that was unclear.”

They continued:

“On November 6th, @lucasdf discovered a smoking gun that the new maintainer is malicious. Although OpenWebAnalytics is a real software, it does not provide the files executed by the extension. Those are hosted on the unrelated site owebanalytics.com, which turns out to be immensely suspicious. That site is one month old, and is clearly designed to appear innocent, being hosted on a public webhost, and being given a seemingly innocent homepage from the CentOS project. However, the site contains no real information other than the tracking scripts, and is only found in the context of this extension. Most importantly, the minified javascript differs significantly from that distributed by the OWA project.”

While there does exist an innocent explanation for this, I can no longer say that it is the most likely. Using the chrome web store version of this extension, without disabling tracking, will execute code from an untrusted third-party on your computer, with the power to modify any and all websites that you see. The fact that disabling tracking still works is irrelevant given the fact that most of the 2 million users of this extension have no idea that that option even exists. The fact that the code is not obvious malware is meaningless in light of the fact that it can be changed without notice, and that it is minified (human-unreadable).”

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The mysterious way the whole situation was handled by the extension’s new maintainer—and their complete silence on this matter (and everything else recently)—made me a bit nervous that a similar situation could happen again, so I switched away from the add-on in all my browsers. I recommend you do the same, even if it is available on other extension stores, and try these alternatives

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Better choices than The Great Suspender for your browser

First, before you try out any alternatives, make sure you use The Great Suspender to “unsuspend” all of your open tabs before you remove the extension from your browser. And once you’ve done that, it’s as good a time as any to go through those tabs and convert as many into bookmarks as you can. An organized browser is a happy browser.

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After you uninstall The Great Suspender, don’t search the Chrome Web Store for alternatives. It seems like plenty of people are launching their own variants nowadays, but how trustworthy are they? I’d stick to some alternatives that people have already been using—and presumably, vetting.

I recommended checking out this fork of The Great Suspender that removes any and all of its tracking. It’s unclear if this variant will be maintained going forward, given The Great Suspender’s removal from the Chrome Web Store, but it should work for quite some time.

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But do you need The Great Suspender at all? As I mentioned, your modern-day browser already probably does a decent job of resource management for inactive tabs. If you’re on Chrome, for example, Tab Freeze is already built into your browser by default. After five minutes, the browser frees up the memory used by tabs you have open, but aren’t using.

If you need more help than that, you have other options for reducing your open tabs and freeing up your precious system resources. I’m a big fan of OneTab and Tabs Outliner, which dump all of your open tabs into a single, easy-to-navigate screen (or sidebar). There are other extensions that limit the number of tabs you can open, a great way to preserve resources and restrain your sprawl. And if you only want a replacement for The Great Suspender, there are other extensions that perform similarly.

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Whatever your choice, it’s time to officially say goodbye to The Great Suspender. It served us well for years, but no king rules forever.

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Update 2/4/21: We updated this article to reflect the latest news about The Great Suspender’s removal from the Chrome Web Store.

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