Where Science Meets Muse

Building a Better World – A Lesson on Waste and Human Nature from the Internet

Posted by Plish on June 2, 2010

Humans have a tendency to see to  immense resources as inexhaustible…

Until they get close to exhaustion.

Water, our air, petroleum products, various plants and animals. They’re all examples of resources  humans use and use, often not being aware of the consequences until it’s too late.

So, I decided to check and see if another immense and inexhaustible resource was being misused by people.

The Internet.

And, it is.

While writing a post for this blog a couple days ago I noticed that one image I downloaded from the web was surprisingly large.  So, for kicks I decided to see if I could keep it the same quality but reduce the file size.  I didn’t do any tweaking of contrast or brightness.  Here are the results:




I was shocked.  The file was almost twice the size as what was needed.  Sure it’s not perfect but it still looks pretty good. I would venture to say that if you didn’t have the other one next to it you wouldn’t even know.  But, is this a pattern on the internet?   I went over to  5 other sites, and downloaded a few more pictures from them to see if this is a prevalent problem.  Below are two of the more glaring examples.   

 I simply saved the files at a lower jpg quality.  I didn’t take any time at all to tweak the contrast or brightness.  





What this shows me is that if the people building the webpage simply took a little more time, they could have reduced bandwidth used by the pictures by 50% or more. (The other sites had comparable waste in the range of 30%-50%)

One of the sites I checked did have a file that was reduced as much as reasonable.  It’s shown here:


I wasn’t able to get this one down any further without noticable deterioration.

So, what’s the lesson?

We all know that human nature takes the easy way out if possible.  I’m sure that the designers of the above web pages used criteria such as: If a page loads within x seconds over ABC data lines, then it’s acceptable.

They met their requirements. 

But, what they didn’t do was see if they could push the envelope, be examples of social responsibility, bring down their bandwidth load just because they could.  They didn’t try to do more than just meet requirements, and be more than just designers.

Therein lies the challenge to all of us when we design our daily lives. 

Do we simply do what’s expected and what everyone does, using more water, electricity, food, and gas than we need to?? 

Or do we rise to the challenge and see ourselves as more than just consumers, more than just users of resources and see ourselves as powerful contributors to the common good?


2 Responses to “Building a Better World – A Lesson on Waste and Human Nature from the Internet”

  1. Matthias Borner said

    Good research. Congrats. That would mean, that 30 – 50% less servers in the global backbones and networks would do. This is millions of tons of future waste and CO2 saved.
    But look: We could have thinner table plates, inner walls of 8 instead of 15cm, smaller windows, less shoes in the rack, and so on and so on. You can reduce to a minimum and than find out, that you are still able to live with less.
    Than go, give a room from your house to a homeless, take some of your time, to tutor a kid, stop eating meat. Meditate and find out, that you are made for more. Go to a place of real trouble and start apeasing.

    Ok, you have convinced me: I ll make my next homepages pictures lightest possible. Let´s just get started.

    Best regards fm Munich,


  2. Plish said

    WOW!! What an inspiring reflection – thanks for sharing!
    Let’s just get started, indeed!

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