Having returned from a pleasant family vacation where the main topic of conversation was a huge tanker being split in two by controlled explosions off the East Devon coast in England, it was nice to get back to reality and discover the nerdfest surrounding how much power could be saved globally if Google switched from a white background to a black one. Of course, this discussion has all the usual scientific merit of previous debates involving improving the audio quality of a CD by using green marker pen along the rim or leaving a window open during a hurricane will equalize the pressure and prevent the roof blowing off.
The claim is that an all white web page consumes around 74 watts of power, an all black one just 59 watts. Based upon this assumption, and extrapolating from it that it Google gets 200 million queries per day and each is displayed for 10 seconds, then in full screen mode if Google was to change from a white to black background it would save 3000 Megawatt-hours every year. A good old fashioned dose of science appears to have quickly headed the way of the author, no doubt mentioning that when it comes to LCD monitors, you k now those ones with a back-light which is on regardless of whether the screen is displaying a black, white or rainbow colored background, the difference equates to, well, absolutely nothing actually. The original posting entitles ‘Black Google Would Save 3000 Megawatt-hours a Year’ has now become ‘Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year’ based upon a further assumption that only 25% of the monitors in use around the world are of the CRT rather than LCD variety.
Looked at globally, I suspect that might be a little on the conservative side. A contact who works in the display technology industry on the marketing side of things, edits a trade newsletter on display technology and has access to global sales figures assures me that during 2006 the global numbers were 130 million LCD screens sold and 33 million of the CRT variety. Now while that compares nicely to the 25% figure, it only reflects the state of sales of new monitors and not the usage of existing ones. In third world countries, where there is an increased reliance upon charitable donations and second hand equipment for example, the in use percentage is likely to be hugely swayed in the direction of CRT and will remain that way for some time to come.
So perhaps a Black Google is the way to go after all? Google itself does not seem to think so, and has made no announcements on the matter. Heap Media, however, has produced a Google powered search site with a black background called Blackle which in just a couple of days claims to have saved over 100,000 Watt hours. Although you would be excused for thinking it was 100,000,000 Watt hours because readability on a black background site is not exactly brilliant, and certainly cannot match the usual black text on a white background. Google, funnily enough, will no doubt have done plenty of its own usability studies which is just one reason why I doubt there is likely to be any color change any time soon. Blackle, while claiming to be a worthy cause because “every time you load your Internet browser you will save a little bit of energy” which is not true if you are using a LCD display, and that by setting it as your home page and spreading the word to your friends you will be “saving energy one search at a time” for which I refer you to my previous barbed comment, fails to mention that it will also be making money as it is part of a Google Co-op program and so gets a rake of the ad-revenue generated.
Still, if Blackle really cares about the environment perhaps we will be seeing a statement soon about how that money will be used to plant trees and offset the carbon footprint created by recreating a Google search engine on a separate server to Google itself…