In-progress comments erased on new Retina iPad when switching tabs November 19, 2013 9:57 PM   Subscribe

I have noticed a change in behavior in the new Retina iPad mini running iOS 7 (from the original iPad mini running iOS 6).

That is, if you put some text in a MetaFilter comment window and then open, or go to, a different Safari tab, when you return to the MeFi tab, the tab automatically reloads, and the not-yet-submitted comment gets wiped out. No warning or anything--just gone.

I'm not sure if this is hardware related, or perhaps a quirk of iOS 7 (which up until now I hadn't used). I think mobile-Safari is trying to do the user a favor by automatically reloading the page so the user has the freshest info (or perhaps the RiPad mini has less RAM for tabs (?), but it's terrible for doing things like pasting URLs and quote into comments.

Is there anyway to fix this on "our" end? Or is this only an Apple-solvable issue?
posted by blueberry to MetaFilter-Related at 9:57 PM (20 comments total)

I have also experienced this issue and cannot figure out the source either.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:13 PM on November 19, 2013

In the past, pages have reloaded in pretty much all versions iOS after switching tabs. From what I can tell, yeah, it's the way iOS conserves memory. Instead of keeping all tabs "live" like it would on a Desktop, Mobile Safari often reloads when you switch focus. But in my experience, not always. It often depends on how many other apps and tabs I have open.

Unfortunately there's nothing we can do from this side of things. It's something to be aware of. Perhaps you could compose comments in a note-taking app and paste it in when it's finished.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:16 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

another option to work around this is to preview the comment (using the "preview" button, not live preview) before changing tabs. that way your actual comment gets saved in the page rather than just being content in a form textarea.
posted by russm at 10:20 PM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I was going to pop in to say this is a OS issue, and I bet iOS7 uses a bit more memory to do all the animations and colors and gradients and might explain why it didn't happen as much in iOS6. Also, Safari no longer has a 8 tab limit in iOS, which would also explain more tab reloading.

But we'll look into some other ways to try and temp save in-progress comments, there might be a fix for it.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:12 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's funny (maddening) because for a year I used my original iPad mini with iOS 6 and never once ran into the problem.

Then, 10 minutes into using Safari on the new Retina iPad mini with iOS 7.0.4, it happens on my first attempt at a comment. I thought it was a fluke or I pressed something wrong, so I typed it up again, switched tabs to grab a URL and bam it happened again. Argh.
Also, Safari no longer has a 8 tab limit in iOS...
I think Safari may have had an 8-tab-limit on iOS on the iPod Touch, but I'd always been able to get about 24 tabs open at once on my old iPad mini (before the "+" would grey out and then, while I could still open new tabs, they would just replace one of the other 24 tabs without a warning)
posted by blueberry at 11:40 PM on November 19, 2013

Well, you could always just switch to a non-broken browser...

posted by flabdablet at 1:12 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

it's not broken, it's just made compromises to because of limited resources.
posted by empath at 1:36 AM on November 20, 2013

The current state of Youtube.
posted by Justinian at 1:50 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

The funny thing is that the page refresh problem has gone way down for me in iOS7 compared to iOS6 (all hardware unchanged).

Then again, I tend to only have 4-10 tabs open at a time on my tablet; anything that gets sustained use is probably also getting mirrored to read on my home computer as well (about the only thing Apple's iCloud thingy does really well). If you have dozens of tabs, there's no easy way for the browser to retain state of any tab indefinitely, since the OS is effectively shutting each tab down and restarting it on demand to conserve resources; the cache has to time out eventually, and the tighter resources get, the more quickly that cache is going to be sacrificed; stale browser data is not as important to the system as the contents of whatever's running in the foreground at the time. Unfortunately there can be times where stuff that's a few seconds old can qualify as "stale".

You can install the Chrome and Opera browsers too, and spread your browsing activity around. They're OK.

What I've found helps (in an overall sense) is to have standalone apps for a few select websites that you use a lot. Wikipanion is good. Google's latest iteration of the YouTube app has gotten annoyingly over-whizzy (c'mon guys, i shouldn't have to poke randomly at the screen to find the search field), but it works well enough and, relevant to activity on mefi, it's made accessing the URLs for any video a lot easier than it used to be. I know the whole "HI! YOU VISITED OUR WEBSITE AT RANDOM BECAUSE AN ARTICLE LOOKED MILDLY INTERESTING! WOULDN'T YOU RATHER DOWNLOAD AN APP THAT ADDS NOTHING TO THE EXPERIENCE BUT LETS US KEEP YOU LOCKED INTO OUR CONTENT?!?" thing is hell on a stick, but it doesn't mean all websites-as-apps are bad and stupid. And anyway, to complete the point I was making, it helps you have fewer tabs running in parallel in Safari, and that will help cut back on the page-flushing action you're seeing.
posted by ardgedee at 3:46 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

(As an aside to pb: capslocks-I, capslocks-B, and capslocks-U on bluetooth keyboards triggers the relevant markup insertion Javascript. That was inconvenient on Capslock Day.)
posted by ardgedee at 3:48 AM on November 20, 2013

This has been happening on my iPhone running iOS something-before-7 too. I do my best to mitigate it (hitting preview, copying the entire comment), but sometimes it just gets eaten.

Also, Safari on my iPad crashes a fuckload (no, autocorrect, not a "duck load"). It just crashed two seconds ago, and fortunately I'd copied the above paragraph before it happened.

I think someone should create a propaganda-style poster warning people of this. When you switch tabs, you switch to THE ENEMY!
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:30 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can complain directly to Apple here:
posted by alms at 6:22 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

As others have said, I've had that same problem since long before ios7 but it's gotten worse, and it happens on all websites, not just MetaFilter.

Ravelry has a handy function that auto-remembers that you were replying to a thread and will give that reply back to you at the click of a button when you return to the page, even after a reload, so it's less of an issue there.

On MetaFilter, when I'm composing a comment and want to click away to check some detail in the original article, I've just gotten in the habit of selecting and copying the comment first, so if I need to (and I almost always need to in ios7) I can just paste it back in. The 'preview' idea also seems like it would work, so I'll try doing that.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:30 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lowly iPad 1 owner here, and yeah. I always select all/copy before switching tabs if I'm in mid-comment. It's a pain if you're looking up a link that you want to copy/paste into the comment, because half the time I'll forget that I'm going to clear the comment I just copied by copying the link. The only workaround is to copy/paste into notes. Pretty annoyingly slow & user-unfriendly. I would guess that a lot of my comments have looked like drive-bys in the last 3 years because of that dumb gadget.

Wish Apple would craft an "add to contents of clipboard" feature, so you could copy a thing, copy another thing, and have them both in your clipboard upon paste. Buy yeah, like that's gonna happen. That would be "confusing to novices."
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:10 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Safari no longer has a 8 tab limit in iOS,

Yes, exactly. The new limit may (or may not) be 25 tabs. But:

which would also explain more tab reloading.

Why does that follow? It should mean *less* tab reloading, unless you're using a lot of tabs already and switching back and forth between other resource-intensive apps. I know switching to a game (on my iphone not ipad) will usually force a reload of my open tabs, but jumping back and forth between other apps usually doesn't cause a problem.

OTOH I've never commented here from my phone...
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:13 AM on November 20, 2013

or perhaps the RiPad mini has less RAM for tabs (?)

The new mini has twice the RAM of the old one, but also four times the pixels. I think that does mean more RAM per tab, but I'm not sure how it balances out.

My wife (with an iPhone 4) has definitely noticed more RAM starvation on iOS 7 than iOS 6.
posted by jhc at 2:00 PM on November 20, 2013

I have found that this happens much less on my iPhone than on my iPad. That the iPhone has 1 GB of RAM and the iPad has 512 MB probably explains why — more memory to store the browser's state.

One trick I've found — not just for Metafilter, but it works here, too — is to compose posts in an email to myself. In my experience, it seems the Mail app is given a lot of priority to maintain email message state between switching apps.

It's a tough balancing act, deciding which apps to give more resources to, and how. It's amazing what these computers do in the first place.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:35 PM on November 20, 2013

Have you noticed that twitter has started making your in-progress tweets persistent? If you start typing something, close the window and then open twitter again you'll see your tweet. It doesn't seem to be sending anything to the server, so it might be using local storage.
posted by jjwiseman at 3:43 PM on November 20, 2013

Deliberate or not, I'd describe it as a bug; it basically means that tabs are really just bookmarks or history. The value of tabs is massively diminished if form entries are discarded when you switch away from the tab. It's not just forum comments; imagine trying to interact with an ecommerce or government site or something -- you switch to another tab to check something, come back and you have to start over.

Unfortunately from a programming standpoint it's a hard problem to solve: if a web page is massive, either because of the amount of text (long threads) or number of inclusions like scripts, it doesn't really have the option of unloading the page but preserving your entries and restoring them if you return to the page -- it's nearly impossible to reliably determine if the newly-loaded form is the same as when you made those entries, which would make such a hypothetical technique a security risk.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:27 PM on November 21, 2013

George_Spiggot - my understanding of the behaviour is it's a 2-layer thing. first, ideally, the displayed page is kept live when you change to another app. if Safari gets a "free some memory" message while backgrounded it dumps the rendered copy of the page, but keeps the state received from the server (this drops form content edits, but doesn't lose session state). if there's still memory pressure then page source is dropped from GET requested resources only.

short form: you never lose session state, but may lose changes you've made since the page loaded.
posted by russm at 11:12 PM on November 21, 2013

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