Solar Protocol Envisions A Solar-Powered Web

A black and white image of the Sun and Earth with a series of lines radiating out from the sun and bisecting rings circumscribed around it. On the Earth are three dots with the text "Active Server" on one exposed to the Sun and two dots representing "Inactive Server"s on the dark side.

The transition to low carbon energy is an important part of mitigating climate change, and the faster we can manage, the better. One project looking at how we could reduce the energy requirements of the web to more quickly adopt renewable energy is Solar Protocol.

Instead of routing requests to the fastest server when a user pulls up a website, Solar Protocol routes the request to the server currently generating the greatest amount of solar power. Once a user is on a website, the experience is energy-responsive. Website style and image resolution can range based on the power left in the active server’s batteries, including an image free low power mode.

Another benefit to the project’s energy efficiency approach is a focus on only the essential parts of a page and not any of the tracking or other privacy-endangering superfluous features present on many other websites. They go into much more depth in the Solar Protocol Manifesto. As a community project, Solar Protocol is still looking for more stewards since the network can go down if an insufficient number of servers are generating electricity.

For more details on the project that inspired Solar Protocol, check out this low-tech website.

34 thoughts on “Solar Protocol Envisions A Solar-Powered Web

      1. Oh how I wish that was true, but with so many things the nearest you get to a technical manual is a officially sanctioned tear down video and far too many websites that are the only source for whatever type of info are so plastered with adverts that may well be animated or video… A good example being most of the better product review websites – you know the ones that actually tell you what the device is like in their opinion rather than just the supplied talking points…

        Also I’d not want to go back to the still image quality being closer to thumbnails than an an actual picture – you wanted to see the exploded parts diagram not the blurred out mess that barely shows you anything.

      1. Nah. Too incapable. Sometimes it just is too complicated to avoid inline links and graphics. And separatism does not solve any problem.
        Just treat written stuff like newspapers or books again instead of animating the shยกt out of everything, use only the HTML features you really need and then you have a friendly site. It even isn’t tied to only http:// and it still works over other transports too, if you have the right browsers! Browsers should transparently access at least stuff over ftp:, gemini:, gopher:, http:, news:, nntp: and we should consider every browser that cannot do this broken.

        Demand capable browsers!

  1. Isn’t Starlink a step in the direction you want? Very low latency and solar powered direct to the endpoint? Anyway, I fixed this for you: ‘Some people image that’ the transition to low carbon energy is an important part of mitigating climate change.

    1. …not to forget the Kessler Syndrome! Shit will happen. That’ll make using the orbits impossible and so saves a lot of emissions of rocket launches.

  2. We are all carbon based anyway, so just fire up another gas generator…. bitcoin — now there would be a big energy saver if you stopped that useless endeavor. As for the climate change theory … or mind control, people control, or whatever you call it, it needs to just go the way of the horse and buggy.

  3. So, take something that is cheap, works and is reliable.

    Replace it with a less reliable and more expensive version or with nothing at all.

    Sounds just like HE washers / dryers and everything else carbon economy related.

    1. This should if you do it right be entirely identical to the user, perhaps just enough initial latency with the longer round trip to notice. There is already the same sort of concept is applied when you visit a website, lots of load balancing etc that is effectively all this is doing – just added an extra criteria that puts priority on the server powered by more green energy.

      So if anything the actual serving of the data should get much cheaper, as green energy is rather cheaper in general and massively massively so if you get to discount all the times its is not working great right now pushing that load to somewhere else. I do however wonder if that really will make the system greener as a whole – with more transit distance and infrastructure between you the networking power costs may start to outweigh the saving, and you can’t magic power from where the sun is shining so that server is running to the networking gear inbetween you and it.

      1. You want to have somewhere to step to before leaping into the blue, and having a good comparison measure of energy cost per visit and how much of a degradation of the experience folks will accept. Perhaps the point is proved sufficently and it creates this solar protocol as a default state on the internet so the solar version can go away, or equally the readers keep liking the content on the solar version enough and it has the uptime to do away with the normal version.

        This whole ‘Solar protocol’ needs some degree of proof it is even possible before you can seriously trial it, ideally with some real world numbers. You don’t generally start trialing a new idea at full scale – even SpaceX who love moving fast and breaking stuff do static and smaller testing before trialing the ‘real’ prototype versions..

  4. If one wants to make the internet more energy efficient, then before coming up with ideas like this how about removing pointless javascript and having webpages go back to early 2000s styling. Cut down on adverts, do with CSS sheets… Make pages in to simple text, images, video clips and download links for fancier file types, nobody needs pages that dance around and menus that pop in and fade out.

    1. Or, you know, we could not. I hate some of the modern contrivances (although ads were awful in the early aughts, too), but I will not go back to that ugly unpleasant mess.

      Also, CSS1 was added to the HTML spec in 1996, and CSS2 in 1998, so it’s older than you think and was already seeing widespread use in the early 2000s. You’re thinking of the mid-90s, I think. Either way, as a graphic designer, I’d rather be shot in the head than return to what you described.

  5. There is a much simpler solution. Start building nuclear power stations again, energy “too cheap to meter” (with luck this time it will be true if we scrap all the bureaucracy that makes a clean cheap form of power more expensive than it should be). It certainly ought to be once fusion power is ready, clean plentiful energy when we need it, no need to mess around trying to reduce power use (and ruin quality of life in the effort), don’t fix the demand, fix the supply.

    1. There has been too much fear and froth from the ‘green’ and ‘peace/hippy’ type groups to make building new nuclear possible really – even if there was no government bureaucracy you won’t get past the army of locals and their NIMBY…

  6. Ideologically driven concepts such as this are dangerous, are people really so blinkered that they do not realise that the Earth periodically experiences volcanic winters where solar power output would drop to below 20% of its installed potential, for multiple years in a row, and while power demand rises significantly due to greater demands on heating and lighting systems, particularly for food production which is also solar powered.

    Seriously forget solar for the sake of solar, it is a very dangerous delusion that will become a great filter if you let it. The future of energy production on Earth, and elsewhere, is fusion power, there is no other genuinely sane alternative and if we can’t roll out fusion globally before the dice roll against us we may see billions of people die and civilization collapse, with only the full extent of its descent being unknown.

  7. Instead of using solar intensity it would be better to use the cost per request. Areas with cheaper electricity and a more effective server could be prioritized. When it’s windy and sunny you have more wind and solar energy that needs to be used and lower electricity price. And I’m sure big companies with servers in multiple locations already use methods to balance the load in the most cost-effective way. If the goal is only CO2 reduction regardless of the cost the CO2 emissions per request should be taken into account, not solar intensity, because those are not proportional.

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