Microsoft-Backed Green Search Engine Attacks Google


Ecosia is being endorsed by the WWF and billed as an “eco-friendly” search engine but it is also based on Microsoft technology

A search engine project backed by the World Wildlife Fund, and based on technology from Microsoft and Yahoo, heavily criticises the carbon intensity of Google’s search infrastructure and also contains a sly dig at Apple.

The Ecosia search engine announced this week in the run up to the UN climate talks in Copenhagen is being billed as an environmentally friendly application which donates 80 percent of the income generated from sponsored links to help preserve rainforests.

However, while the search site appears to have the highest of environmental aims, a video created to promote its launch is more partisan. The site is based on Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and its video depicts Google investors as fat, cigar smoking figures while also criticising the search giant for the carbon intensity of its technology.

“Google has grown into one of the most profitable businesses in the world and its investors have made a fortune. But although Google’s investors might be happy to keep counting out their money, maybe they should take notice of a few unresolved issues in the search engine universe,” the video states. “For example there are a lot of C02 emissions caused by the search engines and their massive server networks. Some experts claim that a single Google search causes the same amount of emissions as a lightbulb does in an entire hour.”

The video goes on to depict the CO2 emerging from the “massive server networks” by using images that clearly resemble Apple’s iMac desktop machines rather than any PC that could be construed to run Microsoft’s Windows.

The project is also being supported by the WWF but the exact make-up of its management and funding is not clear at this point as the FAQ section had not been completed at the time of writing. WWF and Ecosia were contacted for comment but did not reply in time for this article.

“There might be a more eco-friendly way to use the profits from search rather than simply stuffing more cash into the pockets of investors,” the video continues. “With that in mind a bunch of like-minded people came together to think about how to make search engines more environmentally friendly.”

According to a statement released by the WWF the site is being tested publicly ahead of its official launch on 7 December to coincide with the UN climate talks in Copenhagen. “The same day the conference begins on Dec. 7, web users can start using a new green search engine called Ecosia,” the organisation states. “The new application, powered by Yahoo! and Microsoft’s Bing search engines, will allow internet surfers to protect about 2 square meters of Amazon rainforest just by clicking on sponsored links.”

Ecosia’s backers also claim that the search site is more eco-friendly than its competitors. “By using the green search engine internet users also reduce their own carbon footprint as the servers of Ecosia use eco-friendly electricity,” the organisation stated.

Commenting on the Ecosia launch, a spokesman for Google made reference to the fact that the video was being hosted on the Google-owned Youtube and cited the search giant’s own statistics on the carbon intensity of its search infrastructure which while different to the light-bulb comparison used by Ecosia, appear to be comparable in terms of total energy used.

“Gotta love open platforms like YouTube!,” he said. “Our stat is that a search on Google produces 0.2g of carbon–which means if you do 5 searches a day, your Google use creates less CO2 than a single load of washing.”

According to the Carbon Footprint site, a single load of washing at 40C in an A-rated machine produces around 273g of CO2, so we’re guessing the Google figure is talking about a whole year’s searches, and assumes 500g per load in a less-efficient machine.

Earlier this year, a Harvard University physicist made news by stating that executing two Google searches on a computer can generate nearly the same amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) as boiling a kettle. Google moved quickly to refute those findings, arguing that the speed of its search processes prevented it from burning so much energy. “Our engineers crunched the numbers and found that an average query uses about 1 kJ of energy and emits about 0.2 grams of carbon dioxide,” Urs Holzle, senior vice president of Operations at Google, wrote in the 11 May posting.

Google is aiming to produce its own renewable energy according to Google’s “green energy czar” Bill Weihl.


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