back to article Study spanks Adobe Flash for abuses of power

We've known for years that graphics based on Adobe Flash and other third-party programming software can be clunky, time-consuming affairs that put our security at risk. Now comes new research suggesting they needlessly consume more power too. According to a paper published Monday, content that uses asynchronous javascript and …


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  1. Charles Manning

    Magic Watts

    "10 most power-hungry websites in Hansen's study, he saved .1 amp and more than 11 watts, the same needed to run a 40 watt compact fluorescent light."

    I can see how 0.1A converts to 11W by using that half-arsed 'merican power, but how does a 40W light only use 11W?

  2. Allan Dyer

    Power Struggle?

    "he saved .1 amp and more than 11 watts, the same needed to run a 40 watt compact fluorescent light."

    No, a 40W compact fluorescent light, by definition, takes, you guessed it, 40W. I guess Dan Goodin meant the amount of power needed to run a compact fluorescent with a similar light output as a 40W incandescent bulb. Who uses 40W incandescents for light nowadays? Probably useful where you need a small heater - like an incubator.

    Now, where did this rubbish come from? 11watts at .1 amps, the voltage must be 110, so that means somewhere on the East side of the Pacific...

  3. Angus Hardie

    CFL equivalence

    The claim is made of Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) energy saving light bulbs that a CFL bulb rated at 11W has the same light output as a 40W incandescent bulb.

    However different brands seem to have different levels of efficiency so some rate 11W to be 60W equivalent, while others claim only 40W equivalent.

    The trouble of course is caused by the fact that light bulbs seem to be generally sold based on the amount of energy that goes into them rather than the amount of light that is produced.

    If the manufacturers would switch to advertising the output in the correct unit (Lumens) the problem would go away.

  4. mittfh

    Doesn't surprise me...

    Just speak to anyone who's attempted using the Flash 10 browser plugin on Linux...

    It's been known to be very memory intensive and cause huge CPU spikes. It's also very buggy - it will crash if you try to open more than one page using it at any one time, and even when you've only got one page open, it will sometimes freeze for no apparent reason...

    Unfortunately, reading around, I've discovered that apparently Gnash doesn't work well with a lot of Flash content :(

    But then Adobe specialise in Bloatware - does the Acrobat Reader installer really need to top 30MB? Especially when there are freeware alternatives that are lighter and more feature-rich...

  5. Michael

    And as I read/write this

    there are three blocked flash boxes on the page.

    I would say it's just because the connection here's a bit shit and bollocks to wasting what I can get loading useless flash content, but that would be lying.

  6. Chris Shewchuk

    What is the carbon footprint of useless environment studies?

    Let's commission a study to determine the carbon footprint of the loads of pointless studies being conducted in the name of environmentalism!

    Skull and crossbones, because it's mostly black, and that means some idiot stuck in the 90's will save 0.0000074 cents for that non-firing portion of his CRT. See, I can save the environment too!

  7. Anonymous Coward


    I've always wanted to do one of these pedantic comments. Quoting from 'The Art of Electronics' --"Incidentally, don't call current 'amperage'; that is strictly bush-league." It's in the first chapter which, incidentally, is as far as I got before I fell asleep. Anonymous because I typically hate pedantic comments but I've always wanted to try one myself.

  8. yeah, right.


    Please, when this article is binned, do recycle the electrons.

  9. jake Silver badge

    Three comments ...

    1. I'm not using or advocating CFLs until the mercury is removed. We spent HOW long, exactly trying to get mercury out of landfills? And now TPTB are trying to convince The Great Unwashed to convert to an alternative lightbulb with no real "recycle" path? Twits.

    2. I think almost everyone uses a 40W incandescent or three. They are often used as kitchen extractor fan lights, oven lights, and refrigerator lights.

    3. Flash never runs on any box I set up, unless the user at the keys allows it.

  10. Charles

    Flash eats laptop batteries

    It's true, Flash is so inefficient that it burns CPU cycles excessively. I know because I have a laptop with an old battery that only lasts about 20 minutes. If I hit a page with flash, even if the flash isn't running yet (like a YouTube page) the battery dies within 1 minute. It just eats my batteries.

  11. Michael Hitchins
    Paris Hilton

    its a joke right?

    researching what web browsing load is the greenest? what if i run SETI@home in the background, does that mean im using too much power? seems like a study in pointlessness, if you only use your pc for browsing get a low power one and it wont matter, right?

    real men use real pcs with multitasking OS so they can do more than load flash banners, im guessing. maybe they should study how much power utorrent uses as it melts the internet

    eh, and i'll just browse in the dark, i suppose

  12. Anton Ivanov

    100% agree

    I did some experimentation to see what does it actually take for the flash games on the BBC children website to render properly with linux and firefox. I ran these on my fairly big collection of old (and relatively new) iron and frankly I was shocked by the results. The smallest machines to render them properly were a 3.2GHz P4 and a dual CPU P3/733 with an 8x AGP Nvidia. Both went to nearly 100% CPU utilisation. That is a lot of power to waste for a simple animation of the kind people had no problem doing on the original 4.77MHz IBM PC.

  13. Ian

    power hungry

    Flash and the like may be annoying and non green on a PC but on a handheld / tablet device it kills the battery life. This is a small but growing userbase of the nets so it is probably time for site developers to take this into account and make sure their website is not causing unnecesary cpu cycles. One of the worst offenders I have come accross is unuseable with the device the site puports to serve:

  14. Anonymous Coward

    @ Chris Shewchuk

    Flash code is executed on the display, is it? Back to CS101 with you.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    And people wonder...

    ... why Apple chose to keep flash off the iPhone? Given how much CPU/Memory I've seen a high-spec laptop give to a site running flash, the iPhone battery would be dead in a fraction of its normal time.

    I know a few people who are doing web design courses and when they come up with this 'awesome idea' of creating a flash website or a site with major flash components, I feel duty bound to berate them until they back down from this suicidal idea...

    Mine's the one with the iPhone whose battery doesn't die in half an hour...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How much energy

    has been wasted in these type of studies? I say live for today, screw the next generation and beyond.

  17. Rob Munn
    Thumb Down

    oh brother

    Are we seriously debating the power consumption of active content in web Pages? I'm no environmentalist, but let's convert the 600+ million gasoline burning cars in the world today to a cleaner fuel first. Then we can replace coal with nuclear, home solar, and to a lesser extent hydro and geothermal, and the carbon footprint of a computer goes to nothing.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    40W CFL?

    I got given some 8W CFLs free from my gas company. They are about as bright as a single IKEA candle. I was even thinking of suing them for wasting delivery miles and foisting unsolicited poisonous mercury on me and millions of other people with bulbs that are useless. Delivering them straight from the factory to landfill (because that is where most will end up) would be more efficient - cut out the middle man.

    Factor in the fact that CFLs have awful power factor I suggest that the 11W would hardly cover the transmission losses to run the CFL least of all the bulb itself!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Who cares?

    So you save 0.000001% of the power you use?

    Surely everyone should have flash blocked for security (and to avoid being pissed off by stupid adverts) reasons anyway.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe El reg..

    .. should practice what it preaches

  21. Eric Van Haesendonck
    Thumb Up

    The register is also an offender.

    I can attest that flash ads does require a lot of CPU.

    I actually installed Flasblock because a few month ago every time I visited the Register and one of the flash adds for the "memory upgrade" company appeared on the page, my silent PC became a wind turbine trying to cool the CPU!

    I don't mind looking at text or even image ads (The Register's staff must eat too, so ads are needed), but badly developped flash usually make the ad so invasive that I want to turn it off.

  22. lansalot

    no problem

    I've been blocking ads for years. A quick look at El Reg with adblock off shows a number of highly distracting flash ads. No wonder people use adblock - and I suspect it's not because of the energy savings.. Who can read when you're being flashed at to buy ink for your printer etc

  23. Anonymous Coward


    So SIlverlight is power hungry is it? Well, that's hardly surprising, consider it's parents.


    and power hungry or not, I've never seen a single page that uses it yet. When I do, I'll be clicking the box that says "No, I don't want any Microshite software installed on my computer thanks"


  24. Whitter
    Thumb Up

    Bugger the power

    Save my time and my eyes. I use Opera and flash et al are off on every website by default, activated specifically for one or two where it is necessary (as I can't find a non-flash alternative site: if I can find a non-flash alternative, the pointless-flash site is removed from the bookmarks).

  25. Thomas Bottrill

    Save even more power

    Stop using images. And lots of different colours. Just have a text based web.

    In fact, stop using web browsers - they must use a fair bit of electricity. We can just use telnet instead.

  26. The BigYin

    Wow. I'm green!

    All hail NoScript, Flashblock and AdBlock. Although I do wonder if the amount of power those add-ons consume is more than the adverts would have been?

    Anyhoo - web adverts grate my carrot immensely due to the way they disrupt content, so I will continue to block them for my (mostly) selfish reasons.

  27. Chronos

    Do we care?

    This is the question one must ask. Are these green issues reality, or is carbon dioxide simply a very small variable in a larger, much less well understood overall situation than these "experts" would have you believe. For example, albedo and water vapour play a much larger part in GMST.

    So, is this "carbon footprint" newspeak really about "saving the planet" (which is, to my mind, arrogant in the extreme since the planet has been here - FSVO "here" since Earth moves and never ends up in the same place twice - a darn sight longer than humanity) or is it just lining the pockets of these so-called "researchers" and giving government an excuse to increase fuel duty and the French an excuse to charge us the same for off-peak power that we were paying three years ago for peak units?

    Besides, who the hell suffers animated ad banners these days? I haven't seen one for ages. Silverlight? No support in this OS (not Lunix) and anyone using it is essentially saying "Windows only on my site." Which is fine since it's their site and if it needed jazzing up with animated shit, it probably wasn't worth looking at in the first place. Animated GIFs? Guys, seriously, 1995 called... As for punching the monkey, I'd rather slam a bunch of fives into the face of whoever thought of it, assuming that said lobotomy recipient would notice. Same response for anyone, ANYONE, who adds a music track to their home page, usually some new-age bollocks or a little jingle that gets on one's tits after the first bar and has you reaching for the speaker power switch before the wife hears it and thinks you're going soft.

    When considering ads, the rule is if it is more than a few lines of text, it gets blocked. Nothing to do with being an ecotard, more to keep me sane when using today's corporate sponsored, "monetized" electronic billboard that is the web and stopping these retards using the bandwidth I pay for just to annoy me. And Google? Please. Its ads are the right format, but it wants to know you. It wants to know all about you. If it were a person, you'd have it in court for stalking. Everywhere you go, urchin.js is there waiting for you.

    Now I just need to filter all the Pricegrabber, Kelkoo and similar shit from my web searches and my "web experience" will be almost bearable. Oh, and for those who are tired of's Flash interface that makes you wonder why the hell you bothered putting together that Core2 Extreme QX9775 box with 8GB of memory and two 4870X2s in crossfire when a simple speedtest still looks like a runaway process, try thinkbroadband's Java test. It actually works without making you run all manner of benchmarks afterward just to reassure yourself that Intel haven't stuffed a 386 SX into an LGA775 package.

    Do I care about how much power my machine uses? You bet I do, since the French have me by the bollocks. I give less than half a shit about CO2, but when the frogs keep on sending me extortionate bills just for vibrating a few electrons in my wires, I take notice. Did that figure in my draconian ad blocking scheme? Did it buggery. My SANITY figured heavily in my draconian ad blocking scheme.



    ...when people think up these banal and irritating flash ads a light bulb really does go OFF above their heads.

    Couldn't you have just told us "whenever we look at streaming flash videos an angel cries"? Lightbulbs?... pffft!

  29. Tim Williams
    Gates Horns

    Processor fans

    I have a computer with a very sensitive variable speed processor fan. Most of the time it runs slow and quite, however, it's not uncommon when i'm web browsing for a flash movie to cause it to make a noise which reminds me of an aircraft taking of. Occasionally the movies that do this are on The Register....

  30. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    A logical consequence?

    If animation, streaming, ... visual feedback on a computer is to be deemed not eco-friendly can we assume extension to television in all its forms?

    Perhaps the most eco-friendly option is a radio with transcript screen for the hard of hearing?

    That would mean closure of most if not all television studios, cessation of manufacturing, transporting and selling televisions hence huge reductions in carbon footprint. Expunging terrestial, satellite, online tv with no need to supply DVDs BlueRay HD vHD ... would save an enormous carbon footprint too?

    Methinks the article and content is quite myopic in more ways than one :)

  31. Tom

    I dont give a hoot about power wastage

    its my bandwidth, life and freedom going down the pan here.

    Flash (and presumably Silverlight when anyone writes anything in it) are just poinless wastes of bandwidth - a prime example of how to say hello in megabytes of pointless graphics.

    As for my freedom - Adobe and Microsoft have joined to prevent Javascript being usefully developed so they can sell you Flash and Silverlight editors.

    We could have had this stuff 10 years ago without their help!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I have had to stop visiting several websites

    that have redesigned using excessive Flash, because they slow my computer to a crawl and take an age to load up. It reminds me of my old dial-up connection from 10 years ago. Honestly, just because people have powerful computers with lots of memory these days doesn't mean every application has to consume all of the available resources.

    Down with greedy apps!!!

  33. Francis Vaughan

    Power add sup

    This is something that I have been thinking about a bit in the last few weeks. Partly because I am so fed up with the utterly ridiculous CPU soak that my browser has become. Even switching on Adblock, Flash blocking and NoScript still leaves me with a browser that can cheerfully pull 50% of the machine, whilst doing aparrently nothing. This is becuse one needs to load the odd bit of flash, or enable the odd script to allow many pages to work at all.

    The BBC news page has a stupid script that does a teletype style banner. Just turning that one bit of gratuitous rubbish off dropped the cpu use back quite noticably. Otherwise it continues to run even when the page is not displayed. Nuts.

    Seriously, add up the number of browsers running worldwide rendering Flash and Javascript vanity. That single banner on the BBC page, muliplied by the number of open browsers that have that page loaded under a tab across the world isn't just some silly ignorable bit of power. That banner script is probably soaking up a few megawatts. One lazy designer/programmer at the BBC causes more power to be wasted than their salary would pay for.

    The inefficient bloatware that is Flash, when added up across all the browsers in the world very possibly makes Adobe one of the most criminal companies on the planet in terms of unnessesary energy consumption and carbon footprint. There are say one billion PCs on the planet. If each of these is hit with a 10 Watt penalty for gratitous rubbish running Flash based banner ads and idiotic bumph, we are talking a small bunch of programmers at Adobe who don't care about sorting the quality of their code out, causing the world to use as much additional power as is used by all of San Francisco, San Jose, and the rest of Northern California.

    So, this isn't just about a microscopic percentage of the amount of power used personally. It is interesting to look at all the "Green Company" stuff on the Adobe web page. Yet the most critical thing that their company could do to improve energy use in the world would be to try to code their wretched Flash player better. A 1% efficiency gain would translate to maybe 100 Megawatts of electricity use worldwide. It would be interesting to hear someone from Adobe comment on that.

  34. Rob Aley

    @jake and others, re CFLs

    Stop spouting rubbish about CFLs and Mercury.

    - Modern CFLs contain less mercury than coal plants dump into the atmosphere when generating the extra power needed for the equivalent incandecent bulb (by a ratio of about 6:10).

    - CFLs are very recyclable, and the manufacturers are obliged to provide such a scheme by the WEEE directive. The only issue is that there are few collection points at the moment. The RecOlight scheme ( formed by the major manufacturers is being rolled out and many local authorities are signing up to participate. In the US you can recycle your CFLs at any "Home Depot". Buy CFLs now, buy the time they burn out there will likely be a recycling facility right near you, and if there isn't, put them in a box until there is. They last a long, long time so you won't need a big box.

    - Some older CFLs and some given out free now (as they are older stock) are rubbish in terms of their light output, not really giving the same light per equivalent watt. But, as any good Reg reader will know, technology moves on. Go into any supermarket or B&Q etc. and buy a modern one now, and you'll see the difference (or rather you won't).

    To sum up : They're better for the environment and you'll save money with no noticable difference.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flash - aaaaah ah... dun dun dun dun

    Flash, like any other tool, has it's uses and, just like JavaScript can be horribly abused - the difference I guess is that JavaScript is normally written by people who have half a clue what they're doing when it comes to code - Flash tends to be cobbled together by designers.

    I don't actually mind Flash when it's being used for pointless fluff that you don't have to encounter unless you want to - Weebls Stuff, YouTube, Happy Tree Friends and so on... only when it becomes intrusive on "normal" surfing do I have a problem with it.

  36. Aaron

    @Rob Aley

    They may be better for the environment, but they're not better for *me*, and the people who strongly back them seem far too high on saving the world to get around very often to noting that if you accidentally break one of these things, you create a significant poisoning hazard. Not that that's different from other fluorescents, but I'm not fond of the way people sell these things as the best invention since sliced bread, and never actually bother to mention that they're not without risk. (But, hey, who cares how many pets and kids get mercury poisoning as long as we save the world, right?)

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Now, now..

    "I say live for today, screw the next generation and beyond."

    That's quite enough thank-you Mr Glitter.

  38. Andy Pryke

    Airplane Noises

    A friend of mine's laptop sounds like it's about to take off whenever they visit , which is, unfortunately, one of several tabs they have as their home "page". After Adblocking the relevant flash ads the PC is silent as a lamb.

    Also, many ad-serving websites are very slow - one of the one's El Reg uses often hangs and required me to reload pages in order to get them to display.

    I only block ads which cause problems - I figure the sites need the revenue, but some ads make sites almost unusable.

    Faster page rendering, faster browsing, quieter PC - seems like a good idea to me :-)

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Bad science.

    >"strong anecdotal evidence"

    This phrase is self-contradictory nonsense.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >"This is the question one must ask. Are these green issues reality, or is carbon dioxide simply a very small variable in a larger, much less well understood overall situation than these "experts" would have you believe. For example, albedo and water vapour play a much larger part in GMST."

    Are your arguments really so weak that you feel you need to rely on the blatant lie of claiming climate models ignore albedo and water vapour? That's really pathetic.

    >"saving the planet" (which is, to my mind, arrogant in the extreme since the planet has been here [ ... ] a darn sight longer than humanity"

    Are your arguments really so weak that you feel you need to throw up this blatant straw-man by claiming that environmentalists think the issue is somehow about physically saving the material substance of the planet from some kind of unspecified physical destruction, rather than protecting human civilisation against massive disruption? That phrase is a sloppy shorthand used by lazy journalists, not a summary of the agenda or mission statement of the IPCC or whatever.

    So. On the one hand we have a huge number of scientists with a vast amount of observation, data, modelling, theorising and testing. And on the other hand we have you with your lies, deliberate misrepresentations, and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. I reckon everyone can make their own minds up about the respective strengths and weaknesses of the two arguments. Personally, I'll go for the one that has "evidence" and stuff like that in it..

  41. Andy

    Blinded by maths

    Kill-A-Watt boasts an incredible "0.2% accuracy" on that page you linked to. Perhaps they missed the "+/-" off, but.. Watt?

  42. Nebulo
    Thumb Down

    It's all true.

    I've had one of those little power-measuring "Energy Monitors" inbetween my box and the mains for a few weeks now and have been checking it regularly. It's not only the Flash ads, either, dire as they are (ah, the usual FF plugins :) - watch anything on the Beeb's new "improved" Flash iPlayer, or News 24, and yep, up goes the CPU usage to 99 percent.

    On my nothing-special CPU (aging Athlon 2K), this is an extra 15 - 16W all the time I watch anything. Multiply that by a few million viewers, and you start needing extra power stations just to handle the Beeb's Flash. Chuck in all the straining servers handling millions of copies of a few (large) streams and you really begin to think our predecessors did it better by just building a few big TV transmitters and synchronising the viewers.

    Phil Spector originated "Back to Mono!". Okay, that was because he was deaf in one ear, but the principle's right. The interweb needs something similar, it's getting ridiculous.

  43. jake Silver badge

    @Rob Aley

    The power saving of CFLs is fact. I don't disagree with that.

    But the mercury is a very real problem. People break lightbulbs all the time. Do YOU want mercury in your toddlers bedroom?

    Many people do NOT recycle. The CFLs ARE winding up in landfills, causing mercury concentrations that are much worse than powerplants exhaust dispersed by the wind.

    But it's nice to see you've drunk the cool-aid. Some of us are a trifle more sane.

  44. KarlTh

    Me too

    Really noticed this lately. I have the CPU/Memory gauges on the Sidebar for information, and it's amazing how once you hit a flash animation the CPU runs up to around 30% (dual core 2.4GHz or so) and after a couple of seconds the aircraft take-off noises start. How is that Media Centre can show me full screen telly using less CPU (far, far less, only around 4-5%) than a small animation making a stupid smiley jump up and down? At least when Thing 1 is playing Flash games on the BBC website it's achieving something. Keeping him out of my hair.

  45. Elrond Hubbard
    Paris Hilton

    @Anton Ivanov

    Just tried it on my eee901 (firefox and linux), and it was fine. That's pretty puny iron, compared to the one you mentioned. There has recently been a new release of the flash player plugin for linux which sucks a lot less- check if yours is the latest. It also does full screen video playback a lot better (not sure if it uses XVideo or OpenGL visuals etc). However, worth a lot. The old flash player plugin was a lot heavier and slower. Hope it helps.

    El Reg:

    See, this is why I like you lot.. even if there are technical flaws in the article. You're admitting that threre's a problem, suggest the use of noscript (which can do flash blocking too, now) and ad filtereing, despite being ad supported. Yay! We piratical freebooter scumbags salute you <3

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    My cpu goes 100% busy and the cpu fan runs at high speed on pages with lots of flash ads (for instance any footie website run by premium tv). As soon as I hear the fan speed up I know exactly what is is. Close the tab thats got all the flash on and the fan spins down.

    Which is why I now use firefox with the noscript plugin. It happens in both firefox and IE on XP.

    So in effect those sites which display so many flash ads have just shot themselves in the foot cause I never see them any more due to the impact on my pc. I've often (sadly) thought it must be wasting so much power and indeed it seems it is.

    Perhaps rather than continually looping ads designers could limit the number of cycles or indeed the flash plugin could allow us to override this setting.

  47. Midas


    One word for the crowd:

    Switch to any decent gecko/webkit based browser that supports flashblock (& adblock -- try, for instance) and it's flash begone! (unless you really need it, in which case it is just a matter of clicking the flash placeholder icon).

    The spectacled dude, 'cause he gets it.

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