Among Apple’s many announcements yesterday was a mention of an improved Safari web browser with new energy-saving features. This change is obviously important for the battery life of a portable device, but if you look at it in the aggregate, it may amount to a blip in our total electric power consumption.
Think of this change at the individual level. How much of your total electricity consumption goes to web browsing? It is probably not one percent, but it is probably not too much less than that either. So some new web browser engineering could end up cutting total electricity use by a noticeable amount. If it is 100 megawatts across the United States, that is more than $100 million a year. It is worth looking at the financial effect this way when you ask whether the engineering work was worthwhile.
One of the surprising details of browser energy use is how much energy web browsers use while no one is looking. After you step away from your computer, a web page may still be cycling advertisements in and out at a significant energy cost. The new Safari doesn’t stop this ineffective parade of ads, but it is said to gain much of its energy savings just by giving browser ads a lower priority on an otherwise inactive computer.