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How YouTube Could Tweak Its Design To Become More Eco-Friendly
By Mikelle Leow, 08 May 2019
Image via Primakov / Shutterstock.com
YouTube is the second most visited website in the world as of December 2018, outranked only by parent company Google. This makes it a key influencer of the globe’s carbon footprint.
A research team at the University of Bristol estimates that the video-sharing network emitted about 11 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2016, and will present this finding at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems on Thursday.
While YouTube has purchased carbon neutralizers, the amount of carbon dioxide it releases still exceeds Amsterdam’s annual footprint. Thankfully, the scientists have an idea of how the video service could introduce design changes and cut down emissions by up to 551,000 tons.
To reduce YouTube’s footprint, the researchers suggest the platform make the ‘background play’ feature available to all users, since non-subscribers of Spotify or Apple Music are more likely to play music videos—and are forced to leave them open—on the app. The feature is currently accessible to YouTube Premium users.
YouTube could further decrease carbon emissions by discontinuing its ‘autoplay’ function, the scientists add. In order to stream content—voluntarily or not—YouTube needs to consume energy from cellular networks. YouTubers might be on the hurting end should the platform stop this feature, however, as autoplays bring in more views to their videos.
The researchers point out that they’re not accusing YouTube, or the online tech industry for that matter, of being environmentally irresponsible. They are simply offering suggestions that might be kinder to the planet.
As it stands, YouTube has a ‘Dark’ theme—available on desktops, iOS and Android—that not only reduces eye strain, but sucks up less energy in devices. According to Google’s Material design blueprint, dark mode “conserve[s] battery life by reducing the use of light pixels.”
[via Earther, cover image via Primakov / Shutterstock.com]
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