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Want longer battery life? Avoid the New York Times and The Grauniad

Web coding changes power consumption on the client, says dev

Software developer Santeri Paavolainen says the code powering today's websites is taxing browsers so much, it's having a significant impact on power consumption.

The programmer came to that conclusion after a casual examination of news sites including the New Scientist, the BBC, Forbes, The Guardian, and The New York Times, as well as Google and its YouTube video vault.

Paavolainen used an electrical power meter and a 2013 Retina Macbook Pro running on 50-per-cent-brightness with Flash disabled by default to work out the amount of power devoured when browsing various sites.

He says he found that New Scientist comes up as the most efficient, followed by the BBC's homepage, with the Google and Apple websites still in the low-consumption category. YouTube and video rival Vimeo are more expensive, clocking in as mid-range power eaters along with The Grauniad.

The New York Times stands alone as the worst energy-devourer among the dozen sites examined.

"I was expecting a more uniform power use distribution, but at least these results were quite stratified. I was also expecting that video sites would be the most power hungry. They weren’t," Paavolainen wrote in his summary.

"The main conclusion based on this very limited sampling is nonetheless clear: there are significant differences in browser power use between web sites. The difference between low and medium group is almost 10 watts and grows to almost 50 watts between low power group and The New York Times site."

The low power consumption bracket includes sites causing the computer to consume less than 10.7W give or take 0.9W, medium is within 3W either side of 20W, while the high-power group are those eating 48W plus or minus 3W.

"These are just numbers, but I think they show that it is possible that power-hungry websites can potentially consume significant amount of power by end-user computers," he says.

Power consumption ramped up by inefficient programming, however, is enough of a concern that, in 2012, it prompted the EU to encourage the development of tools and frameworks [PDF] that allow developers to check the power consumption of their applications in early design stages.

That effort has produced a prototype that uses code analysis and energy modelling to show how much a particular application's source code is going to tax the computer in terms of energy use. ®

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