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Archive for August 2nd, 2007

I’ve gotten a number of emails, and people seem to be getting excited about a website named blackle.com. I finally decided to look into it, and what I find is a little disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong. Blackle is an ingenious idea… for the founders. It preys on the guilt we all feel as we use more energy and natural resources in order to do what we need to do from day to day. The premise is that by simply changing to a black background, we can each save a little bit of energy each time we use Google. Given how many people use Google everyday, the potentially energy savings are can appear to be high.

Blackle.com is simply a Google Custom Search placed on a black background. Anyone in the Adsense program can get a Google Custom Search bar, and get paid by Google everytime someone uses it. So Blackle is clearly a great way to make some quick cash with only a little effort, particularly if you can get people to use it regularly.

It also preys on our inherent laziness. It’s easy to change our homepage, and so with just a push of the button, we line the pockets of Blackle’s founders.

But is the claim even true? Like all things, not everything is so simple. You will save 5-20% if you are using a old-style CRT monitor,. According to recent data, less than 25% of the web use CRT monitors. If you are using an LCD screen, you might be actually using MORE energy. LCD monitors work by having a continuously on backlight, and energy used to block the light from coming through the LCD screen to our eyes. Some case reports of people testing their own monitors has shown that this energy increase may be measurable. By the way, if you are using a CRT monitor you are also using about 5 times more energy CONTINUOUSLY compared to an LCD monitor. If energy conservation is really your concern, it might be time to switch. LCD prices have come down a lot.

To make things more complicated, the monitor is only a small component of the total amount of energy used when you surf a website. Energy is used by every server, every router, every wire that the data traverses to get to service point and back. So, not only are you sending data packets to the Google search engine server, but also to the Blackle server as well. Google maintains a huge infrastructure of servers placed all over the world so that the closest server will serve up the page to optimize speed. Google also has made multiple efforts to be carbon neutral, and strategically builds server facilities near environmentally friendly energy sources such as hydroelectric power.

Overall, I would only consider using Blackle if you have a CRT screen, and even then I’m not sure it will make much of a difference. I’d suggest that if you feel guilty about the environmental impact you are making on this world (as you should), then I’d suggest getting involved more pro-actively.

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