Mozilla has published a great new article in their Internet Health Report for 2018. It summarizes the various aspects of energy sustainability for the web which I’ve been publishing for several years. Great to see this become an interest to major players!
A blog article summarizes the energy efficiency segment of the report:
First off, there’s a reminder that the Internet is not necessarily more energy-efficient than physical travel – in fact, data centers use energy relatively equivalent to world air travel. Also, ever-increasing energy efficiency of our devices is simply fueling Jevons’ Paradox – while energy consumption is relatively flat at the moment, the report below predicts that it will begin rising steeply again by 2020:
The report also links to the Greenpeace Clickclean Report, which summarizes energy “clean” versus “dirty” apps. In this case, the emphasis is not on how much energy is used, but the energy source. Netflix gets trash, probably because managing streaming (in the absence of good battery storage for large systems) requires having lots of fossil-fuel energy generators ready to fire up at a moment’s notice:
It’s also great to see Mozilla highlight Tim Frick’s work on web sustainability and his book on Sustainable Web Design:
Despite the goodness here, the article (possibly unintentionally) ends on a sombre note with a graph from the Greenpeace report. When comparing use of energy by tech companies, it is clear that most of the increased use is in Asia.
And Asia will also have lots more growth (or attempted growth) of webtech, since their larger populations are beginning from a lower starting point than the West. It’s not that rosy.