Sustainable Internet: they create a website that works only with solar energy

Sustainable Internet: they create a website that works only with solar energy


Second prototype of the server that maintains the solar web, illustrated with a blurred photograph to reduce its weight and the consequent energy expenditure

On the balcony of his house in Barcelona, ‚Äč‚ÄčKris De Decker has a solar panel connected to a battery that feeds a server. He hosts his magazine,
Low-Tech Magazine, where it publishes content that shows that not all problems need the latest technologies to come to solve them. "I try to practice what I preach," says the Belgian journalist.

Unfortunately, or who knows if luckily, a web tied to the sun depends on the generosity of the clouds. When the two shadows accumulate, the small battery that powers the server runs out of stock and Low-Tech Magazine disappears from the network of networks. Between December 2018 and November 2019, the magazine was online 351 days; a negligible nothing 95.26% of the time "If we want to change to renewable energy, we have to adapt more to the weather and the seasons," he warns.

But to build a
        
Internet
        
 To feed exclusively on the sun, it is not enough to look at the sky. Although it is increasingly common for the great powers of the cloud to feed their data centers
With renewable energy, this solution is not enough. "For starters, the Internet already uses three times more energy than all the solar and power plants in the world can produce," says Decker on its sustainable website. His project demanded that the journalist and his collaborators rethink everything we take for granted today in the design of modern websites with just one question in mind: Is it essential?

As it seems, we are not building the web as we should. "I know that what makes our project unique is that it be sustained with solar energy. But this is not the most important thing," he says. The key for the server to be able to support the magazine is that it is reduced to the minimum expression of itself. "There are two reasons why the
Internet energy expenditure continues to grow at high speed. U.S
We spend more and more energy without realizing it because applications and websites are getting heavier. The second reason is that we spend more time online, "explains the founder of Low-Tech Magazine. Now we carry the Internet in our pocket. We look at him when we get up and keep in touch with him until we go to sleep.

Light and intermittent

The system devised by De Decker is moving in the opposite direction to these trends. On the one hand, the web is pure HTML (the markup language that is used to create the basic structure of a page) with a few Javascript lines with which it includes the weather forecast and the battery status. "It's extremely light," he summarizes. In addition, the images of the site are blurred to minimize their weight and there are no cookies that monitor the user or external advertisements. "The ads are not necessarily incompatible with a more sustainable Internet. A few years ago most of them were text based or showed static images. Today there is a lot of video and moving images and there is also a lot of monitoring happening in the background. This is bad for the sustainability and also for privacy. "

For now, the ballast release strategy works. "Although the server is small, right now it is operating at 30% capacity. There is a lot of space for more websites. That is why we are going to add a version in Spanish and French. And yes, it can be done on a large scale. In fact, it will be much more efficient to use the same technology in a much larger version, such as a data center that hosts thousands of websites with its own limited store of solar or elic energy. " In addition, although it is not completely intentional, when the bad weather comes, Low-Tech Magazine breaks the 'curse' of the Internet always available.


Kris De Decker in an energy efficient photograph

Kris De Decker in an energy efficient photograph

Although its website is a tiny drop in an ocean in which according to estimates from Internet Live Stats more than 1.7 billion pages are concentrated, De Decker sees enough potential in his idea that it ends up penetrating: "We have received many comments on the pleasant that is to visit a website where nothing moves, there are no cookie notifications and that it is also very fast.It was not the intention, but I think it is a situation in which everything is advantages.If you make your website much lighter and more sustainable, also you do it more
user-friendly".

And what do we do with the platforms of
        
streaming
        
 ? Who is willing to give up
        
Netflix
        
 and their counterparts? "Maybe it was not such a good idea to move the television from the analog to the digital. But we can probably do with the videos the same thing we did with the images," he reasons. The images hosted in Low-Tech Magazine weigh ten times less than their originals, thanks to the compression and blurring procedure they undergo. "Today's videos are twice as heavy as those of a year ago. We see a constant evolution at higher resolutions. Where does this end? How much image quality do we need?" Asks the journalist. "The good news is that so far we have not done anything to make the Internet more sustainable, so there are many possible improvements that do not involve destroying what we have. It seems that this idea always appears that the Internet is something of cutting-edge technology and energy intensive, but in reality it can be as high-tech or low-tech as we want, like any technology. "

The bad news is that the ball is on the roof of the big platforms. "When I open Facebook, I download 13 megabytes of information just because someone has sent me a message. Two sentences. And there is no way around that. It is the responsibility of
        
Facebook
        
 "De Decker explains. In his opinion, users can do little, except try not to use the Internet so often." And it is difficult, because the whole society basically pushes you to the Internet, "he concludes.

In this sense, the problem is ubiquitous and common to the look of technologies that are integrated into our routines less optionally than it seems. "In Blgica you need a smartphone to buy a train ticket because if not, they charge you an extra five euros," says the journalist, who carries with him an antediluvian mobile phone, prior to the large and bright screens connected to the Internet that we use now. "I do it because I wanted to know what it means to decide not to follow these technologies. My life becomes very impractical and complicated and this happens because society evolves and the Internet becomes a necessity. We are basically forced to get on the train. There is no other choice. ".

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