Blackle – a cheaper and more eco-conscious search engine

And you thought that Google came for free. Blackle, a black Google, is a response to the calculation that an all-white Web page uses about 74 watts to display whereas an all-black page uses 59 watts. Ecoiron comments:

Take at look at Google, who gets about 200 million queries a day. Let’s assume each query is displayed for about 10 seconds; that means Google is running for about 550,000 hours every day on some desktop. Assuming that users run Google in full screen mode, the shift to a black background [on a CRT monitor! mjo] will save a total of 15 (74-59) watts. That turns into a global savings of 8.3 Megawatt-hours per day, or about 3000 Megawatt-hours a year. Now take into account that about 25 percent of the monitors in the world are CRTs, and at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, that’s $75,000, a goodly amount of energy and dollars for changing a few color codes.

Fair enough then. But what about the other services – Images, Scholar – which aren’t included on Blackle? You mean I have to click? Would be nice if Google could give a choice of background colours when logged in…


4 thoughts on “Blackle – a cheaper and more eco-conscious search engine

  1. AAAaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggh!
    How could you fall for this ?

    Apart from the dubious science (based on a dubious report from the 90s) it only applies to CRTs, *NOT* LCDs (ie flatscreens) which use more power when making the screen dark!

    Blackle is just a PR stunt bordering on a con.

  2. Hey there Veggie, not so fast – and where are your sources?

    There’s this 2002 report which finds a reduction in energy in CRT with black screen – but not uniform and not as big as reported in ecoIron. The LCDs didn’t use more energy displaying black either (maybe because newer models don’t try to backlight dark screens now?).

    There’s a 2007 techlogg report which finds “…the power consumption difference between Google and Blackle on all 23 LCD monitors was as small as you could get – an increase of 100mW (0.1Watts). So after all that testing, we’re in a better position to say that anyone else that Blackle makes next to no difference, on average, with LCD monitors.” Also most of the big LCD screens tested saved a bit of energy with black.

    Ontkush (creator of Blackle I think) comments on this and makes the case for treating the whole population as a single unit and give out one simple instruction “Use Blackle” – in which case yes we would save energy if 25% still have a CRT – their inefficiency far outweighs their market share. But this doesn’t make sense – why shouldn’t we cope with separate recommendations to use Blackle if you have a CRT and forget about it with smaller LCDs for now? Or better still if we care, to consult the findings for specific models and sizes?

    Wonder how it fares on the OLPC laptop – don’t know how it works but it’s supposed to be revolutionary on power and display.,2933,290773,00.html

  3. Sorry – was in the middle of febrile strop when I wrote that.
    However, I stand by my original point. Sources: plenty around, Blackle them. For starters:

    BTW when I said a 90’s report above, I was wrong. It was from 2002. Five years ago when everyone used CRTs. Now the global picture has shifted dramatically.

    However the main ‘source’ I have is a basic understanding of how CRTs and LCDs work combined with some common sense.
    The backlight on an LCD is *always* on. It can’t be turned off for various parts of the screen. The LCD is a layer over the backlight and each call can be darkened by applying some energy. I don’t dispute that CRTs use more power when white than black, on the other hand I’d be interested to see how much power they use when displaying a 1010101010 checkerboard. In theory it should be 50% gray and use considerably less power but I bet it doesn’t. Squarewaves are costly to generate.

    But the most serious reason for doubting that this will make a sodsworth of difference is that the assumptions underlying the theory are clearly bollocks.

    How much time do we all spend with Google displayed on our screens ? Think about it:
    You want to search for something, you either go to Google or type it in your search box. Either way the front page of Google isn’t there long. You results are displayed and you click on them. The search page isn’t there long! if it is, then you’re probably not in front of the machine! If you go for a piss or a cup of tea, your laptop will dim the display and/or your screen saver will kick in. Optionally your HDs will spin down too. Now *THAT* saves a considerable amount of energy. If you’re using an LCD, which I’m sure you are, then you’re already saving a serious amount of energy compared to a CRT, orders of magnitude more than a CRT in fact so feel proud.
    The only thing visiting Blackle will do is help Mr Blackle. You will make far more of a positive impact on the environment by turning your office lights off during the day.

    It’s a straightforward PR stunt and a shockingly high number of well meaning environmentalists seem to have fallen for it.

    BTW – on a totally different topic, have you ever heard of Scroogle ?

    Not that I trust PIR anymore than Google but it’s quite fun to piss on marketing data collectors.
    Want to swap nectar cards ?

  4. Ontkush quote made it quite clear (although my title didn’t) that Blackle’s indicated for CRTs where it would work as claimed – and particularly (to address your question) if Google’s your homepage, or if you’re a frequent searcher. Of course if you cared, Blackle would be just one of the measures you took. I’m convinced the main responsibility for energy consumption should fall to the hardware developers, but there’s something to be said for the accumulated effects of small measures by large groups of people.

    Incidentally, if you want to find out whether to junk (recycle?) your perfectly functional CRT in order to replace it with an LCD on green grounds, you can’t easily.

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