back to article This week's top token gesture: Google Chrome chokes energy-hungry background tabs

With the recent arrival of a new version of its Chrome browser, Google is celebrating its software's energy saving potential, even as it overlooks its electricity addiction. "Starting in version 57, Chrome will throttle individual background tabs by limiting the timer fire rate for background tabs using excessive power," said …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another way to save that energy

    Would indeed be if Google stopped serving ads, as they'd certainly save a lot more power than suggested because there wouldn't be a Chrome, Android, or the Google search engine.

    Yes, alternatives exist, but clearly the majority of the world would prefer to trade privacy for services. And in many parts of the world, the only way they have access to technology is because of free to use services.

    Moot question, but if you (believed) you had privacy, how much would you pay annually to use Google services, or as a device premium?

    1. malle-herbert Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: how much would you pay ?

      Nothing... because your precious data will be slurped anyway !

      Sure as hell not going to pay them for it...

    2. H in The Hague Silver badge

      Re: Another way to save that energy

      "Moot question, but if you (believed) you had privacy, how much would you pay annually to use Google services"

      Good question and one I've often thought about. I only really use their search engine which helps me do my work more efficiently and profitably and I would happily pay EUR 20 to 25 per month for that. And a few euros more for maps and navigation. If I use a service I would prefer to pay for it and be a customer rather than get it free and be the product. Incidentally, I don't really notice their ads - perhaps I've developed selective vision :)

      It's always surprised me that they don't offer a paid service - folk like me must cost them money as I use their search engine a lot for work but never click any of the related ads.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another way to save that energy

      Although there must be a counter argument that if we have to have ads it must be more efficient to have them served from a limited number of large providers e.g. Google, than many smaller ones.

      Data centres have overheads as well as indirect local generation and networking infrastructure tool.

      The most efficient course would be to turn off your own device and try talking to people instead, although of course you may have to skip the coffee too...I believe it takes about 40 litres of water to grow enough beans that make that cup...

      1. TheDillinquent

        Re: Another way to save that energy

        The most efficient course would be to turn off your own device and try talking to people instead

        Not so efficient if the people you want to talk to are hundreds of miles away.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And its background Add-ons that can't be disabled?

    How much power are they using? Along with Google's Sync to Cloud feature that slurps despite being set to Don't Sync in Dashboard / Activity Gmail settings.... No thanks!

  3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Wrong soapbox

    This isn't about 'saving electricity', this is about extending battery life.

    Both are worthy causes, but consumers care far more about the immediate implications of battery life.

  4. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    re: this is about extending battery life

    Because that is the biggest challenge facing mobile makers.

    We have as much processing power/memory/functionality in our devices as we need. Heck, we have waaay more than we need. But it doesn't mean a cent if you have to recharge during the day.

    Without removable/exchangable batteries (presumably they need a trade off elsewhere) then I predict we will see a slew of features all aimed at extending battery life. Either better batteries (although that seems to have stalled), or ideas like this.

    It's noteworthy that (Apple excepted) the industry move to a standard micro-USB connector has resulted in the emergence of a "universal charger" - when was the last time you were more than an office away from a phone charger ? (Anyone old enough to remember the dark Nokia days when you'd have an office of 10 people - all with Nokias - and no charger would fit another phone ?).

    1. Stephen Wilkinson

      Re: re: this is about extending battery life

      The last time I was more than an office away from a phone charger was the first morning a couple of months ago when I forgot my Google Pixel phone charger and discovered that absolutely no one else had a usb-c charger!

    2. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: re: this is about extending battery life

      "Anyone old enough to remember the dark Nokia days when you'd have an office of 10 people - all with Nokias - and no charger would fit another phone ?"

      Yeah, but in those days the average battery life on a phone was 7-10 days...

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Yeah, but in those days the average battery life on a phone was 7-10 days

        Touche ! ->

        But that's a very good point - psychologically.

        I suspect somewhere, the tacit goal is to deliver a realistic 7-days battery life on one charge.

        *Maybe* 5 days, given the average working week.

        Personally I still think - for all their alleged smartness - the mobe manufacturers have missed a trick. There is surely a market for being able to buy a a matched-pair of mobes (you could even present them in a case like antique pistols) where you simply have one on charge, and one in use at any one time. Probably in a charging cradle which triggers the switch between active-mobe/charging-mobe.

    3. Eric Olson

      Re: re: this is about extending battery life

      We have as much processing power/memory/functionality in our devices as we need. Heck, we have waaay more than we need.

      I would challenge this statement on two grounds:

      First, it's been shown frequently (see Anandtech's write-ups on various mobile SoCs) that when a task is completed quickly and the SoC allowed to get back to idle, the overall battery consumption is less than on a slower but higher perf/W SoC. I'm sure like everything else, there are diminishing returns, but for now it's still a viable way to reduce power usage in a mobile device.

      Second, it's impossible to foresee the next big use case or form factor for mobile devices. Some will only be viable when devices are more potent. Maybe on-the-fly chemical analysis, or modeling of local weather. Crazy stuff, but could be very useful, especially remote or rural areas. Or not. But we don't know until we get there.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Second, it's impossible to foresee the next big use case or form factor for mobile devices.

        I disagree.

        We're 10+ years from the iPhone, and there are already 60+ year olds still wedded to theirs.

        After battery life, the next challenge is a smartphone that can *easily* be used with poorer eyesight and co-ordination.

        And we are a loooong way from that.

        Unless Apple, Google, Microsoft are all happy to see their well-heeled customer base drop off a cliff to be replaced by an equivalent number of able - but poor - youngsters ??????

        1. Barry Rueger Silver badge

          Re: Second, it's impossible to foresee the next big use case or form factor for mobile devices.

          Shurely Siri, Alexa, OK Google (forget what they call it now) make it unnecessary to actually type or look at your phone?

          Imagine an elevator full of Townsend level tinnitus afflicted old farts all trying to use voice activated devices.

          1. JimmyPage Silver badge
            Flame

            Re: Shurely Siri, Alexa, OK Google

            OK Google (which I have a lot of experience with) is shit. Or rather it's still at the gimmick stage. YOu might impress a few pissed up "tech" "journalists" with it on a boozy exhibition stand. But plug your phone into your power socket, and try and use it handsfree when driving, and you realise how far we are from the goal.

            You have to put up with only "Google" apps being baked into it (naturally). Then you might be able to launch an app by voice, but that's it - you can't control the app. So even though I can launch HERE maps (because Google Maps are shit as a satnav) that's it. I can't actually start it navigating without additional finger input. At which point Mr. Plod pulls me over, and fines me £2,000.

            One thing we're not seeing with all this smartphone goodness is reliability. I often imagine how the Apollo missions wouldn't have gone if they had a smartphone guidance system ?

            For most smartphone applications, we're between toy and tool.

        2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

          Re: Second, it's impossible to foresee the next big use case or form factor for mobile devices.

          "After battery life, the next challenge is a smartphone that can *easily* be used with poorer eyesight and co-ordination.:

          This.

          The physical keyboard on my Blackberry Passport is a big help, not just for typing but for its ability to swipe left/right and up/down without selecting something by mistake.

          A bit more work on selective magnification and I reckon it'd be getting close.

          But they stopped making them :-(

  5. Moosh

    Wouldn't a good way of extending battery life

    Be to stop making such unnecessarily chunky operating systems?

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Wouldn't a good way of extending battery life

      Yes. But then you'd have a Nokia 3310, not an iShiny.

      Smartphones have invaded userspace, whether it was planned, or just happened; it's here. Whether you are just googling for the nearest Costa, or managing a deal while having lunch.

      My wife has mobility and visual problems, and finds Google Maps invaluable for navigating the city centre.

      1. Moosh

        Re: Wouldn't a good way of extending battery life

        The point is that you can have access to google maps and other apps without the operating system itself being a resource heavy power drain for no real reason.

    2. TReko

      Re: Wouldn't a good way of extending battery life

      It's not Chrome, but Windows Update that is eating my laptop's battery.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mobiles suck

    Never mind that a 4 year old kid had to work dawn to dusk in a cobalt mine, to make your battery that only holds charge for 1 day.

    The most a mobile user can be bothered to type one those nasty virtual keyboards is "I hurr fone", which clogs up message boards with nonsense.

    Simple solution: Just don't let mobile users on the internet. Nothing they type on the bus or toilet is of interest to anyone.

    1. Tannin

      Re: Mobiles suck

      Sometimes I wish that I could save up all my upvotes for a day and deliver them to just one post.

      " Nothing they type on the bus or toilet is of interest to anyone."

      Says it all.

  7. Velv Silver badge
    FAIL

    Smoke and Mirrors around the problem...

    Simply opening Chrome consumes masses amount of power. No background tasks, no "websites" open, just one tab on the default page ready to put something in the search box It should be doing effectively nothing sitting on that page, yet the fan kicks up to high speed while CPU use jumps to 50%+

    I'm not saying background tabs aren't a problem, but get the core browser fixed first would help.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Smoke and Mirrors around the problem...

      I know, I know: loading an executable off disk, dynamical linking it against its libraries, having it prepare its data structures and initialize the GPU and then execute an encrypted http connection to Google (possibly after a DNS lookup), log you in, fetch and compile into machine code pages of scripts for things like autocomplete (and, okay, analytics) and then sit there animating a Google doodle should all happen with zero power usage.

      That said, my machine does this without triggering the fan. Maybe a CPU with a few more grunts would help?

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "if Google stopped serving ads..."

    And if the Earth stopped turning tomorrow the Sun wouldn't rise any more. Let's keep the comparisons in the realm of the possible, shall we ? Google is an ad broker, whatever we use is just a vehicle for those ads. As such, it's ecological stance is a PR stunt, nothing more.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "a few lines of JavaScript code to disable visual updates when the webpage isn't visible"

    Sounds an excellent idea for the users.

    But

    PHB says "You can't do that. It'll spoil the users experience of our latest version of SomeBu***itSite.com. It's so much better if it's all loaded up for them when they open the tab, m'kay "

    During dial up days people would disable image loading to speed up page loading. This seems like something that should be allowed on a tab by tab basis. Some tabs you'll want all the pretty pictures. Others they are are unnecessary.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: "a few lines of JavaScript code to disable visual updates when the webpage isn't visible"

      During dial up days people would disable image loading to speed up page loading. This seems like something that should be allowed on a tab by tab basis. Some tabs you'll want all the pretty pictures. Others they are are unnecessary.

      Nice idea and it would kill of some of the ads. So..... not gonna' happen.

  10. Tannin

    Of Opera still made browsers, they'd be all over this idea.

    Open

    Open in new tab

    Open in background tab

    Open in silent tab

    Open in low-CPU tab

    User options to set defaults for background tabs, such as (for example) "Open as usual but with moderate CPU priority, after (<reasonable time for page layiut and related tasks>), cut resource use to near-zero until aquires focus". Call that "best of both worlds" tab handling. Naturally, you'd also have a way to open a full-power tab (much the way you can open a private tab in current browsers) for when you want to (for example) stream something.

    No bugger invents anything useful anymore.

    Damn I miss Opera!

  11. R 11

    Renewable energy

    Are we concerned about over=consumption of solar power and/or wind?

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/06/technology/google-says-it-will-run-entirely-on-renewable-energy-in-2017.html

    Perhaps The Register is concerned Google will suck up all the sun?

    http://www.discovery.com/dscovrd/tech/town-rejects-solar-panels-that-would-suck-up-all-the-energy-from-the-sun/

  12. Michael Sanders

    Most Google sites use the bloom box or bloom energy server to produce electricity onsite. It's a lot better.

  13. servxcess

    Not sure if this is related to my i7 4th gen 3.7Ghz at Turbo and always on 'High performance' being used 38% on 4cores/8threads by 'google chrome' in task manager.

    Probably is related...

  14. memory_leak

    Linux + Firefox with ad-blocker here, for life :-). Chrome is installed as a fallback if Firefox gets trouble with a page or two, but I didn't fire it up single time yet.

    Unfortunately Gmail and Google (search engine) as well as Youtube are ubiqutious at the moment. yes I know there are other sevices that offer similar, but unfortunately entire world seems to be on Youtube at the moment, so there is really no other compelling alternative.

    Gmail and Google Search are simply superior to other services, so obviously I am still guilty of exchanging my peronal information and privacy for a service with the data mining giant, but most of my traces of the Internet are just in form of a memory leak, so at least it's more or less anonymous on personal level.

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