Google’s Buckyballs doodle costs people money, drives users away

Summary:Within a couple of seconds of sitting down at my PC on Saturday I realised something was badly wrong, and since Google has been my browser home page for the past decade, it was dead easy to spot the guilty party: Google. To be specific, Google’s Buckyballs celebration doodle was consuming 100% of my CPU.

Within a couple of seconds of sitting down at my PC on Saturday I realised something was badly wrong, and since Google has been my browser home page for the past decade, it was dead easy to spot the guilty party: Google. To be specific, Google’s Buckyballs celebration doodle was consuming 100% of my CPU. Closing and reopening IE8 showed that Google was consuming 50% of my CPU with a single browser window open, and two windows took it back to 100%. Firefox and Chrome also showed excessive CPU use, as did a Mac.

The easiest option was simply to switch to a different search engine, which I did. In response to my tweet about this, Andy Smith responded: “I measured the extra electricity when buckyball was running. Sad, I know ;) http://t.co/z5xvytv ”. His post said: “on my Mac Mini, Google Chrome Renderer goes from 0.3 to 57% CPU utilisation. To put that in further context, my household electricity monitor goes up around 15-20 watts while the Google homepage is open, dropping by that amount when I go to another page.”

In other words, Google’s incompetence was costing people money. And spread over hundreds of millions of users, it has obviously been bad for the planet.

Google’s “Help” forum saw other people complaining. For example, user glenvee said:

Today's Google Doodle on the search page is Buckyball, which runs through a javascript. Using Windows XP and IE7, Buckyball script is using 95% of CPU on 3 computers tested at business, and 1 at home. Testing with Firefox on one computer at work, the Buckyball script utilizes 100% of CPU and freezes the system. Testing at home with IE7, Buckyball script uses 95% of CPU....with Opera it uses 65% of CPU on the same system.

In a later post, user logos66 complained:

“guys, there's currently an animation about "buckyballs" (fullerene molecule) on Google search home page; I left Chrome idle with that page displayed. This led to a 60% CPU load!!! ... and a overheating laptop. Same in Firefox. Just get rid of the animation or tune it so that it doesn't put such a weight on computer resources, this is just mad.”

There were many other complaints.

The long-running “Google doodles” have been one the nicest features of its home pages, and I’ve been a big fan. I’ve even written about the Google doodle dude, Dennis Hwang. In this case, however, the doodle has probably done Google more harm than good. As glenvee said:

I guess my question is, why does Google continue to shoot itself in the foot with defective and/or inane Google doodles that force users to stop using the Google search page? I had to remove Google as the home page on all 6 computers at the shop where I work today, and am doing the same at home, due to this ridiculous behavior.

Since Google’s home page is one of the most heavily used on the web, I find it pretty remarkable that Google apparently didn’t notice it had a problem, at least for some number of users, and didn’t either remove the doodle or fix it. (There’s no way of knowing what was happening inside the Googleplex.)

I don’t expect we’ll get an apology, either. That’s not Google’s style.

Don’t be evil? Yeah, right.

Topics: Tech Industry

About

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first webs... Full Bio

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