The computing world is changing. It’s no longer about unlimited computing power and bandwidth – both are in increasingly short supply due to the end of Moore’s law and the increasing carbon cost of processing our lives.
Bill Gates famously wrote the entire Basic compiler in 16k because resources were tight, he had to. Today, most web devs bloat the average digital page to megabytes, often for a poorly specified exercise in ego-driven drivel that no one actually cares about.
5G won’t’ save us, neither will ever increasing invisible cloud services. The game is kinda almost up. We all need to consume less energy and the easiest way to do that is to make our digital world far more efficient, smaller and relevant.
Much of the traffic on the ‘net is deadweight. Poorly written code, bloated apps, pointless images, spam, crappy peer-to-peer integration. Efficiency is the new name of the game. We expect to see web-sites being re-factored for speed rather than being re-designed to look pretty.
Yes, it takes great skill (and planning) to efficiently deploy digital service – it could yet be the next battleground for market supremacy. Faster and cheaper usually disrupts the cumbersome and slow – look at transport, the high street, and services to see the new age is slim, trim, and super-fast.
Data might be the new oil, but the difference is the cost of storage/processing data versus extraction of a finite resource. We can’t keep on saving everything digital inefficiently forever without a cost, despite how incrementally low the cost appears to be. The “cloud” has a cost – Ireland will spend x% of it’s electrical output just serving the cloud in 2020 and add y tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere in the process. That is unsustainable. Maybe not in my lifetime but certainly in my grand-kids.
Better code, more efficient use of computing resources, and – ergo- less bloat means the devices we own now will last longer, and that’s better for you and the planet. And lower cost usually wins.
Bigger is not always better – 8k TV has arrived but requires a 200 inch screen viewed from just a few feet away to make a discernible different to 4k TV. Yet it requires four time the bandwidth, four times the storage space, and four times the processing power. Is it four times better? Is it even 10% better. Is it even needed on a 7” portable device? Of course not, but consumers will buy it so manufacturers will make it.
We’ve been steadily re-factoring client web-sites over the last few years. Trimming a little bit if here, optimising there and generally staying on top of site clutter. It’s not till we take a look back after a few years do we see the gulf of performance gains. For example, this site scores 99 out of 100 on desktop devices, and 92 on mobile devices using Google Pagescore, ranking it comfortably in the top 1% of sites worldwide for performance.
By contrast, many of our contemporaries struggle to do any better than average, and some even rank as being downright slow (Google defines under 50 as slow and over 90 as fast). Which seems counter-intuitive in a world where we should use fewer resources, be mindful of waste, and cut our cloth to match the longer terms needs of the planet and the future generations it will hold.