IE9 (Kinda Sorta Maybe) Wins The Energy Efficiency Game

A Microsoft study recently concluded that Internet Explorer 9 is the most energy-efficient of all commonly-used Web browsers. It’s an interesting study, and it has real-world implications for at least some laptop users.

I say some users because IE9 only runs on Windows 7. And if you’re running Windows 7 on Mac hardware, some other studies have found that you’re cutting your battery life in half anyway.

Still, within those limits, the study looks to be a pretty fair comparison. One hint along those lines is the fact that Firefox 4 actually comes quite close to matching IE9 in energy efficiency. It’s so close, in fact, that it might have prompted Microsoft to rig its bar graph to make the difference look more significant than it really is.

(Look at the “power consumption” axis of the graph above. See how it starts at 10 and not zero? It’s a clever trick, and you can be sure the person who created this graph knew exactly what they were doing.)

Some of you are going to dismiss all of this as a bunch of hooey anyway. What’s a few watts worth anyway, especially when you’re playing music, watching movies, and doing who knows what else on your laptop? I agree it’s not a life-or-death matter, but also I know there are times when a few extra minutes of battery life could have made my life a lot easier.

But there’s another culprit when it comes to browser power consumption. Flash, AJAX, and other technologies that drive dynamic websites can be quite the pigs when it comes to sucking down wattage. Check out this 2008 study, for example, which shows how dynamic websites continue to create power-consumption spikes long after the page has loaded.

This kind of stuff is going to send you looking for a power outlet long before your browser makes any difference. Or will it?

I’m a big fan of two Firefox add-ons that many users can’t live without: AdBlock Plus and FlashBlock. Both add-ons do exactly what their names suggest; in the case of FlashBlock, an icon shows you the location of blocked Flash animations and gives you the option of loading them individually.

Many other users like another Firefox add-on, NoScript, which accomplishes many of the same things. NoScript is more comprehensive, however, and some people (including me) find that its whitelist-based interface gets in the way.

I suggest trying out all three add-ons with the latest copy of Firefox. You’ll see cleaner, faster-loading websites, get better security, and take back control from the legions of crappy Flash designers who seem to be running amok in the world.

And if laptop energy efficiency matters to you, you’ll get that, too.