The Hidden Energy Cost of Web Advertising


Simons, R.J.G and Pras, A. (2010) The Hidden Energy Cost of Web Advertising. [Report]

open access
Abstract:Advertising is an important source of income for many websites. To get the attention of the unsuspecting (and probably uninterested) visitors, web advertisements (ads) tend to use elaborate animations and graphics. Depending on the specific technology being used, displaying such ads on the visitor's screen may require a vast amount of CPU-power. Since present day desktop-CPUs can easily use 100W or more, ads may consume a substantial amount of energy. Although it is important for environmental reasons to reduce energy consumption, increasing the number of ads seems to be counterproductive.
The goal of this paper is to investigate the power consumption of web advertisements. For this purpose we used an energy meter to measure the differences in PC power consumption while browsing the web normally (thus with ads enabled), and while browsing with ads being blocked.
To simulate normal web browsing, we created a browser-based tool called AutoBrowse, which periodically opens an URL from a predefined list. To block advertisements, we used the Adblock Plus extension for Mozilla Firefox. To measure also power consumption with other browsers, we used in addition the Apache HTTP server and its mod_proxy module to act as an ad-blocking proxy server.
The measurements on several PCs and browsers show that, on average, the additional energy consumption to display web advertisements is 2.5W. To put this number into perspective, we calculated that the total amount of energy used to display web advertisement is equivalent of the total yearly electricity consumption of nearly 2000 households in the Netherlands. It takes 3,6 “average” wind turbines to generate this amount of energy.
Item Type:Report
Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS)
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