From IndieWeb

Energy Efficiency on Personal Websites was a session at IndieWebCamp Brighton 2024.

Notes archived from: https://etherpad.indieweb.org/Energy_Efficiency_IWC

IndieWebCamp Brighton 2024
Session: Energy Efficiency on Personal Websites
When: 2024-03-09 12:15



  • What is the impact of personal websites on the environment?
  • There are some objective measures of sustainability
    • Website Carbon Calculator -- a good place to start, tells you about obvious pain points; there are similar tools, too.
  • Once you have identified a list of hosting solutions, how does one understand the energy impact?
  • What kind oif images should you be using to limit energy consumption?
  • Everyone will have their own boundaries as to how far they want to go; trade-off w/ playfulness vs. sustainability
  • Room: wants to be aware of performance considerations.
  • Riccardo was thinking "Which WordPress host would be a good way in to host a website?", then thought about how the host would be running 24/7 -- there is an energy cost. But the traffic to the website is not 24/7.
    • "The lights are on for nobody's benefit."
    • Create a static website? AWS S3 for hosting? Use a shared disk so that the system isn't running idle when not being used. But then this makes it more difficult to do integrations like w/ Webmentions, interactive comments, etc.
  • What considerations has everyone in the room made?
    • Ana: Thinks about how much energy is being wasted on automation. Things that are watching and listening for things to happen. Website is on GitHub. Netlify picks it up and deploys it. If I did this manually, how many servers would this be saving? I could easily compile and upload my website .Has been debating this. Trying to use system fonts on website. Would try to do more caching and offline preservation of content and serve it.
    • Ana: Has also been thinking about social previews that are automatically generated. I would like to have for vanity those but then I think about the process behind it; the energy that it uses. The image being generated / stored is digital waste.
    • Riccardo: One investigation I wanted to do is that there must be an economy of scale. Not sure if it is more energy intense using a large, shared service vs. one's own minimal virtual host.
    • There are economies of scale that have very efficient cooling. We have achieved good progress with server efficiency. But it is antithetical to the IndieWeb. Decentralization appears to be inherently inefficient but has benefits from a societal side. If you are on a virtual host or a dedicated server, you are consuming far fewer resources. Opposite to that: the dominant factor when you are going to a website I think in almost all cases is the client side. Phones are power efficient but a desktop computer that is going to a site with JavaScript or huge HTML will cost a lot to render in terms of required power.
    • What is the thing we want to try and fix?
  • Dynamic features. There is a tension in the indie web of generating your site up front and the indie web stuff of Micropub, etc. Those dynamic features are low frequency. You could have a NUC in your house that serves your low frequency requests.
    • Suppose I want to process some kind of request and do it in a low tech way. For example, I could keep an eye on the logs. Whenever I see a certain type of GET request, that means someone tried to process a comment. I could rebuild my site. But, there is a cost of downloading all the logs, etc. Compared to having a Lambda that is only triggered once when someone does something. However, that comes with the consideration of having the servers afloat and running. Economies of scale are at play.
  • Veronica: We shouldn't get lost in a glass of water. It is really good that we want our websites to be more energy efficient. I work in sustainability. Your personal website has almost zero impact. It doesn't matter if you have one video on your website. We don't have websites with millions of pop ups, etc. There is always a baseline of impact of hosting that spikes with each request. I calculated when people should start worrying about a website. When the requests become thousands and thousands every month, you can start thinking about how do I make my website more efficient. At the same time, the user themselves -- I saw some time ago there was an extension that prevented pages from loading images or loading videos, interactive components, etc. This empowered the user to make a decision; the user can have more impact.
    • It is always important to think about sustainability of your personal website. It is amazing because if you think about your site you will be more attentive to other things you do in your life.
    • When you figure out I could spent hours making something really efficient but then in the great scheme of things it doesn't have the same impact as a cup of tea, the impact would be limited.
  • The lesson learned is to make your own choices. It would be nice to have a calculator to see boundaries.
  • Yousef: In the system of the internet as a whole, where is the most consumption. Is it the servers, network infrastructure, mobile phones. In this pie chart, who has a slice of consumption.
  • James: Mastodon link previews will take a lot. Took down the IndieWeb wiki when someone famous reposted content.
  • Yousef: In the future where everyone is on the indie web, how is that different from a sustainability perspective from everybody on a decentralized social networks?
  • Mark: A lot of energy using laptops is processing scripts like Facebook pixels, etc.
    • The technology like React is great for dashboards but isn't ideal for personal websites.
    • If you can share what you have learned with organizations with whom you have worked, there is a potential impact; compare on the basis of contents. If we are doing analytics, do them on the server side if possible.
    • Decentralization is good. People are taking more conscious decisions about what they are putting on their websites.
    • Mark: Facebook datacenters are commonly located next to energy generation facilities. Energy transmission is to pof mind for large organizations. But it also means that the incentive to do better in terms of what they deliver is not as acute.
  • Joschi: Low Powered Tech Magazine. I would like to being the aspect of the way we develop into the discussion. I am talking a lot about this in my web work. There were times 20 years ago when I had to deliver one line of CSS and I used an FTP client. Now I need a versioning system, pipelines, testing, etc. There is an impact to all of this overhead in the way that we work. We are all into developer convenience and we are offloading it to the client in many cases.
    • Riccardo: If the indie web is going to be growing and getting exponentially bigger. I have a lot of interesting considerations on energy consumption from the production site. There are going to be LLMs used in editing websites? Using CoPilot to write HTML, CSS, etc. The energy consumption to train and use models.
    • Riccardo: 100r.co -- Hundred Rabbits. If you have never seen them, have a look; the authors live on a boat and run a studio while seafaring on the Pacific. Their day to day life is about energy saving. They can only count on solar energy. Things happen on Raspberry Pis. They need to be aware of how much energy they use.
  • Sam: The main sources of energy and resource consumption are out of our hands -- LLMs, video streaming. Optimizations we can do to our own site are infinitesimally small when you look at large sites. Is there anything we can do as developers to have an impact larger than our own personal websites?
  • Yousef: In terms of content. If you are generating photos and copy with LLMs. It is going to flood the internet, not from personal websites but for SEO spam. Not doing that -- using these tools -- where possible, or prioritizing content where you aren't generating it for the sake of having it there.
    • I suspect people are going to value human written articles more than a summary written by an LLM.
    • I thought about h-feeds a while ago and marking up your site. Generating RSS feeds from a h-feed is worse than generating the RSS once. When I was using Granary, every time it is loading my whole page and taking out little tags to turn into an RSS feed rather than serving the RSS feed directly. Yes, it is caching directly. This could be one reason not to serve a h-feed.
    • The convenience is not having an extra compile step. My content can be my feed. But if I have that extra step, there is a cost. It is a tiny thing that will not really have an impact for one site, but will at scale.
  • Veronica: There will be no time where we shift back to 2005. Fundamentally, one of my dreams is to see the impact of TikTok calculated. I would love to see what the impact of TikTok is. Lots of clutter, content. Impossible to think that society is going to go back and think I don't want to have the visual stimulation of TikTok. I think it is mostly on governments to structure incentives on energy efficiency, renewables, etc. Europe has introduced a think where anyone who imports aluminum, even if it is produced in China, now they have to pay taxes on imports. It is not unlikely in the future where something happens for computing.
  • Ana: It has to be governments stepping in. Why is fruit wrapped in plastic? I wonder if organizations can have a step where you don't do what everyone else is doing. You don't have to host on AWS. Do we really need this over-engineering solution? There are so many places that just do what the large corporations doing. It comes from the ethos of the company itself. I saw a talk about sustainability at ffconf, but they mentioned the amount of garbage and emissions from Spotify. I deleted by Spotify. I have to make an effort. It doesn't have an impact, but there has to be a higher level of monitoring.
  • Riccardo: Having seen the inside of large consumers of compute, developers can make better choices. How do you make that at scale? That's challenging. Most people follow best practices but they are rarely tailored on efficiency. It is possible to have an impact. How do we translate that to the indie web? I'm not sure. We don't have the scale and the weight to move the needle that much. It's about spreading the culture of efficiency and sustainability. Then the person thinking about this gets employed by a large tech company and thinks about efficiency.
  • If you can cut the budget and be efficient, that is great. But without a capital cost, corporations may not be interested.
  • The energy transition is happening now. Once we do get to 100% renewables, are we done? Room: no.
    • Materials costs come in. Battery for example. It can be renewable, but if you are wasting energy, heat is being released still.
    • Yousef, Mark: Browser extension that gives websites ratings about sustainability. The Carbon calculator might have it.

See Also