A few weeks ago I discovered an underground society. Their name was the Bandwidth Conservation Society. I do not believe they are active today. They exist only as an archive on the internet. It’s a shame because I believe that conserving bandwidth is something that we should be talking about.
I was reading about how Low Tech Magazine built their own solar-powered website. I love the idea. I’d love to power this website using solar power. It’s not something I am going to do because I’d have to host a site on my home network, but I’d love to see more people give it a go. What appealed to me is that they designed their site to be as simple as possible. They had to otherwise they could not power their website using solar.
I use a lot of websites in a day. I’ve never stopped to consider how much bandwidth I am using. I would think about this if I was being charged for the amount of bandwidth I use in a day. That’s not the case in the United Kingdom. Most people pay a subscription for their broadband.
Developing for Me
I used to develop websites for me. This meant that I was only worried about how a website would look on my computer. This leads to a bias that we see all too often in websites and design in general. I design for my device and I forget about the other ones that are out there. It’s not easy to design for devices that you do not use yourself. I don’t see errors on my site that may appear on tablets because I do not own a tablet.
I am getting the hang of developing sites for everyone. Part of this has been using more semantic HTML. Tags like <header> and <article> are becoming part of my HTML repetoire. The more semantic HTML I can write, the better. This is about more than developing for me. It’s about developing for the people who will read this site.
I haven’t thought a lot about bandwidth because it seems like an antiquated concern. Bandwidth is basically a utility. I know that broadband can be expensive but at least I do not have to pay per megabyte. Maybe it would be better if I had to do this. I would stop being so greedy.
How I Use the Web
There are a number of websites that I visit every day, or almost every day. Some websites I visit even more. What would I be charged for accessing these sites if I was going to pay per megabyte? I have no idea. With the average size of websites so large, I would rack up quite the bill.
When I find a website, I often bookmark it for later. Then I load the site again. That’s more bandwidth being used. If sites were only HTML, this would not be so much of a problem. Modern websites are more than just HTML. A lot of sites are many megabytes large. I am loading these sites on a daily basis when, in many cases, I do not need to.
This website was my first foray into asking myself: what would people from other countries think when they saw this site? My primary concern was bandwidth usage. I think some places still use pay-per-whatever models. That means that there are people for whom accessing a website is in itself expensive. I don’t want to waste anyone’s money who comes here. This site needs to be as simple and accessible as possible. It’s just a place for me to share my thoughst on the wide, expansive web.
I want to do more to conserve my bandwidth. I am going to try to load pages a bit less than usual. Now that I think about it, I could start downloading HTML documents so that I can open them for later. My browser already has the page; downloading it would mean that I wouldn’t have to load all the assets again when I revisit the page.
The bandwidth I consume will not make much of a difference to my internet bill. It will make a difference to the environment. It’s unclear what the carbon footprint of a website is. There are one or two calculators on the internet but I am not sure how accurate they can be. Calculations about a site’s carbon footprint depend on analytics and because I don’t use site analytics I cannot build my own. What I do know is that the larger a site is, the more data that needs to be transmitted over a network. Larger sites mean a larger carbon footprint.
It’s a new way of thinking. How can I visit websites less? I do like to surf the web. I’m going to continue doing that because: (i) I enjoy it and; (ii) the cost of conserving bandwidth is high if I let it intervene too much with my technology usage. Where this comes into play is in my development. I’m going to try to build websites that conserve bandwidth. My work should be as minimal as possible.
My index.html is currently 2372 bytes large. The styles.css file which is downloaded is 695 bytes. That’s a small homepage. I am aiming to keep the sizes of my pages at about this size. The total size of my website is 0.1 megabytes. It will grow as I write more blog posts. I ask that when you view my site you download a copy of the pages for yourself if you intend on viewing something later. It will save bandwidth.
The simpler my site, the easier it is to maintain. Simple sites conserve bandwidth. This is operating under the definition of simplicity as simplicity: minimal code, no fluff. I don’t mean simplicity in design. My efforts may be small but I’d like to conserve a bit more bandwidth in my day-to-day life.