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Browser Power Consumption

This isn’t like most the other posts I do on here since it’s only tangentially security related, but it was a fun experiment that we spent a few days working on over the last few weeks. We were researching “green” browsing, and found that certain client side internet technologies, like Flash and JavaScript, to name a few, were the worst in terms of power consumption. For anyone interested in this topic feel free to review the paper here.

For those of you who don’t have time to read the whole thing, the jist is that Noscript and Adblock Plus do a very good job of reducing the power consumption of the least “green” websites. Just another reason to use them! I don’t consider myself to be much in the way of a conservationist, but stuff like this fascinates me since I live so close to the browser world. I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, for those in the US!

16 Responses to “Browser Power Consumption”

  1. Nick Says:

    Also good to know if you have a limited power supply (laptop battery) and are trying to make it last as long as you can.

  2. Sam152 Says:

    Wow, that’s some pretty amazing research. I’m running noscript and I am on a laptop. Thanks for the insight.

  3. John Dowdell Says:

    Hi, I’d agree that ongoing processes usually require more processing (and hence more power) than static processes.

    (Was that the core of the argument?)


  4. sana Says:

    The problem is NoScript and AdBlock run under javascript as well!

  5. RSnake Says:

    @Nick - excellent point about battery conservation. Not something I wrote in my paper, but certainly a good conclusion to draw.

    @JD - That is indeed the argument. I’m sure there are plenty of other plugins or scripting types that could have caused runaway CPU usage. I certainly wasn’t trying to say one is worse than another in terms of what it is capable of (that would require a lot more testing). But in my experiments Flash was by far the most common reason for the CPU usage. Then JavaScript, then Silverlight.

    @sana - They do, but they do not appear to have any noticeable impact on the CPU once the browser is loaded. I did not test performance impact of the browser loading with and without plugins. That would require more thorough testing.

  6. Robert Says:

    Wow, you have entirely to much time. :)

    How about some neato security research instead?

  7. RSnake Says:

    @Robert - ha ha. I wouldn’t exactly say what I have is too much time. Just something I was interested in.

    Bob McMillan of the IDG News Service just sent me these comments from Adobe:

    The amount of power consumed by Flash Player is largely in the hands of the developer and the complexity of the application he/she is deploying. If they chose to use high frame rates with complex animations, 3D drawing, high definition video, compositing, filters and effects and other sophisticated capabilities that the runtime enables, power consumption can increase. In Flash Player 10 we extended the use of the GPU to offload some of that processing from the CPU and we intend to continue to increase the use of the graphics card in the future. As we bring Flash Player to other devices, we plan to further optimize power/battery consumption for the playback of Flash content. But it is important to note that Flash Player is a sophisticated web application runtime for deploying all types of applications from banner ads to mission critical business applications. Further improvements in the Flash Player, some mentioned above, will not alleviate the need for developers to watch resource utilization and power consumption. Unbeknownst to some developers they themselves already have significant control over this.
    Tom Barclay, senior product marketing manager, Adobe Flash Player.

    A bit later, they added:
    One thing Id like to make clearer is that with dynamic content in general whether its Flash, Ajax, Silverlight, decoding video, anything that requires software and screen refreshes power will be consumed at a higher rate. Its just the way software works. There are indeed ways developers can help make their content consume less power, and of course the Flash Player team is always working to better improve power consumption in the latest versions.

  8. Rafal Los Says:

    @RSnake: Seriously… you already have several hobbies… ;-)

    I guess I always figured that more complex processing requires more power, ahem, yea. While interesting to note, I think it might be more interesting still to analyze CPU power required to process a “complex object” in each of the major client-side technologies (Silverlight, Flash, JS, etc) because that may directly link it to how long it may take to auto-magically disassemble/reverse/re-purpose/”hack” that object. How’s that for a research proposal? Dangit… now I just need some of that mythical “free time”…


  9. RSnake Says:

    @Raf - “reverse”? Wouldn’t that get you in trouble with the DMCA? ;)

  10. Spyware Says:

    Anyone remember the Black Google thing a while back?

    Now, I just noticed that the SecTheory website is totally white-schemed, RSnake. You should go out there and save a few dolphins and trees by changing those FFF’s into 000’s!

  11. RSnake Says:

    @Spyware - yah, except in our tests there was no difference between white sites and black sites in terms of power usage. Maybe there was one, it just wasn’t measurable. It’s way way way less important than the active content anyway.

  12. Jac Says:

    Then Girgio Maone must be glad to see this research’s result :P

  13. Jawdy Says:

    @RSnake: Brilliant :) I’ve only just come across your site and am plowing through as many posts as my brain can handle.

    As for Blackle (I think that’s what they called the Black-Google project) I remember it being mostly power saving for CRT’s, not so much for LCD’s or Plasma’s etc.

  14. DN Says:

    Too bad Noscript and Adblock Plus only work in Firefox. Anything like that for Opera?

  15. whatever Says:

    But it is important to note that Flash Player is a sophisticated web application
    runtime for deploying all types of applications from banner ads to mission critical business applications.

    1. Extreme simplicity is the utlimate sophistication.

    2. What is the mission?

    3. Why is a Flash player critical to the mission?

    4. In order for a “web application” to exist, one needs to implement the web. And the web was, and still is, implemented with UNIX (including variants thereof). Highly sophisticated in its simplicity. Perhaps it’s why year after year, we keep using it. It isn’t “broke”. And doesn’t need “fixing”. In many cases it fixes itself. Alas, for “developers”, There’s not much to “develop”. Users can write their own scripts and tools.

    Moreover, the console requires little power. And power efficiency (resource utilisation) in what a user does is largely under the user’s control, not a developer’s, with whom the developer has no connnection.

    UNIX is what is critical for business computing and there is no mission it, nor the powerful applications that run on it, cannot handle. Hype != importance.

    Imagine if there were a campaign to help people understand the sophisticated simplicity of UNIX, its potential for security and its energy consumption benefits, among other things.

    I’m glad you did this research. Was it a “waste of time”? Is energy important? Will more and more people worldwide, especialy in China, be using computers going forward?

  16. whatever Says:


    sed ‘/with whom the developer/s/developer/user/2′