Google's blobby mystery doodle consumes more CPU than Flash video (updated)

Google's blobby mystery doodle consumes more CPU than Flash video (updated)

Summary: Google has provided people who use its home page in the UK and Germany with a new toy: a blobby doodle where the balls that make up the letters flee from your mouse pointer. And like the Buckyballs doodle I wrote about recently, it’s a resource hog.

TOPICS: Tech Industry

Google has provided people who use its home page in the UK and Germany with a new toy: a blobby doodle where the balls that make up the letters flee from your mouse pointer. And like the Buckyballs doodle I wrote about recently, it’s a resource hog. In Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 running on Windows XP, it consumes about 40% of the CPU while the blobs are moving. It’s more efficient in Google Chrome, consuming about 25% (18-30, like a holiday). However, Firefox 3.5.11 is worst of all, at 45-50%, with less smooth movements, too.

It uses roughly twice as much CPU as playing an Adobe Flash video at YouTube. This is progress?

You have to wonder how this whole “HTML5 v Flash” thing is going to work out. Given that a lot of companies are going to have far worse programmers than Google, a web overloaded with badly-written HTML5 could cripple a lot of older machines. (A lot of corporate PCs are 4-5 years old.)

Another point is that the same code produces dramatically different results, as Microsoft has already shown with some of its IE9 demos. In this case, Google’s doodle provides bigger, cruder blobs in Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox than it does in IE8. Presumably this demonstrates that IE8 is less standards-compliant than its major rivals, but this is illustrated by the IE8 rendering looking much nicer.

Another mystery is that, unlike Google’s usual doodles, it’s not clear what’s being celebrated. It could simply be one of Google’s birthdays, but PR Media Blog has some better suggestions:

- September 7 is the day the first TV camera tube picture was transmitted - Google is holding a press conference at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) tomorrow (September 8).

However, another clue is that the Search On event’s web address ends with /searchmtv/2010, which suggests that it will have something to do with Google TV and, perhaps, Google Goggles.

It probably will not feature Noel Edmonds

Update: I used the term “HTML5” rather loosely above, as standing for a basket of technologies as illustrated in Apple’s HTML5 demos. It turns out that Google’s blobby doodle is implemented in CSS3, but this prompted Rob Hawkes to code it again in Recreating Google’s bouncing balls logo in HTML5 canvas. It doesn’t have all the Googly features, but it’s close enough.

With the real HTML5 doodle, Google’s Chrome browser uses 25-30% of my CPU, which is generally a bit more than Google’s version. Firefox uses 33-38% of my CPU, which is a little less. Of course, it doesn’t run at all in IE8, which is presumably why Google didn’t take this approach.

Does this make HTML5 better that CSS3? Not necessarily. With Google’s version, none of the doodles consumes any CPU if the mouse is nowhere near the doodle. With this particular HTML5 version, Chrome consumes 25-30% of my CPU in the background, while Firefox consumes a terrible 33-38%.

I’ve never noticed HTML5 canvas doing this before, and I hope never to see it again. I typically have a dozen tabs open in any browser I’m running, and fairly often I have more than one browser open. I really don’t want to be in a position where 20 tabs all want 30% of my CPU….

Finally, please note: I’m not claiming this is a comprehensive report: it’s just one man watching what happens on one of his PCs using Process Explorer because, well, I’m like that.

Topic: Tech Industry

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

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 website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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  • Or this could be the trial of a new format of advertising for the Google Homepage. We know brands have long been keen to harness this homepage and it generates a substantial volume of traffic. Perhaps this could be a turning point and a huge money spinner for Google?
  • Firefox 3.5.11 - surely latest version 3.6.8 is needed to compare (and to avoid any security risks using an old copy of Firefox?). It's unlikely to be much better, though, as Firefox 3.6.8 is runs at 80-95% CPU usage on my PC (a Compaq Evo D510, P4 1.8GHz, 1.25Gb).

    As to whether IE8 is more or less standards compliant - the rendering difference in the size of the blobs may not involve the standards at all, and be down to how the rendering engine is allowed (within the standards) to draw the blobs. By lowering the quality, that may be how IE8 is getting in front of Firefox in terms of performance/CPU usage. Though with Chrome ahead of them all, is this just a push by Google to show off their browser and get us to all switch to Chrome? As if that's likely - I've too many useful Firefox plugins I can't do without.

    It's quite a cute animation thing, though. There was a time when we all oohed and aahed over things like this.
  • Your computer must be from the 1990s! Mine is less than 3% on IE, Firefox or Chrome. And that's all it ever spikes to -- usually 1% or less. Time to visit the computer store?
  • With java enabled google spikes my dual-core 2.9ghz machine by about 27%
  • Why on earth does anyone have google as a home page?
  • First of all, there's no HTML5 involved in the Doodle. It's just fairly fancy (downright impressive, actually) CSS3 code. If it were HTML5 it would not only not look right in IE8, it would not be visible at all. IE8 is wholly HTML5-incompatible (though IE9, allegedly, will properly display HTML5... we'll see).

    Anyway, if one looks at the Google search page's SOURCE code, one sees that the Doodle is tagged "hplogo"...

    ...which maybe means that the Doodle has something to do with HP (Hewlett-Packard).

    If so, then maybe the particles are supposed to be inkjet dots.

    And maybe it's all a reference to September 7th being the birthday of Hewlett-Packard co-founder David Packard.

    I'm not sure that even I buy-in to that theory yet...

    ...but it's both plausible and interesting... no?

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com
  • FWIW, Intel i7 975, when all the dots are moving around, Chrome and Firefiox, 2%, IE, 6% and it doesn't work like it should. My experience with this processor is that everything screams, even single threaded stuff because of instruction pipelining across all available cores and virtual processors (hyperthreading). All browsers fully updated. Java is not involved, it's all CSS3.

    And, I don't like it, too distracting.
  • UPDATE: The "hplogo" in the code would appear to refer to "home page logo," and has nothing to do with Hewlett-Packard (HP).

    Bummer. So, then, the mystery continues.

    None of that changes the fact, though, that it's STILL David Packard's birthday! [grin]

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com
  • I'm the dude behind the HTML5 canvas version of the logo. I fully admit that I haven't done much optimisation or performance testing, and it could certainly do with it. At the moment I use a static framerate, so when nothing is happening it still abuses your CPU. Dynamic framerates or other techniques could be put in place to "pause" the canvas rendering when nothing is happening. In the 2 hours I took to create the experiment, performance wasn't my main concern. If I was to release this properly I would certainly take comments like yours into consideration. Thank you.
  • Many, many reasons to use Google as a homepage. I use Google News and iGoogle because both provide great starting places for whatever information I'm trying to find. What do you use for a homepage? Anything half so useful??
  • For me, the interesting thing is that Google used to set great store by keeping the front page lean and mean and they used to push this as an advantage - and as user centric design. Recently they've done everything from wonderful JavaScript emulations to the tacky way they tried to copy the Bing photo backdrop; it's a very different philosphy.

    p.s. Have you considered a Win 7 upgrade Jack? ;-)
    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe
  • > Google used to set great store by keeping the front page lean and mean ... ;
    > it's a very different philosphy.

    Maybe it simply means that Google considers that particular web page as less important these days, now that modern browsers integrate with search engines directly. Personally, I hadn't visited it in *ages*, until Jack suddenly started throwing his toys out of his pram.

    Mind you, back when people *did* need to visit Google's web page in order to search (and we all had CRT monitors), there were those who complained that this same page wasted electricity because it was blank and white! As the French say, "Tout ca change, tout c'est la meme chose!".
  • Actually, I can't distinguish between html5 and adobe. I've heard a sentences about apple to html5, which is that apple just go after google. I have an impression of adobe that it can play any videos with different video format, in opposite, html5 supports h.246 (According browser publishers’ will) someone thought html5 should take 10 years before replacing adobe in the areas like games, desktop widgets, e-learning interactivities and many applications that require advanced animation API or techniques. As ifunia lists in their official website, html5 can’t replace adobe at once, because “74% of the web can't be seen on the iPad” (that means you have to convert videos by 3rd-party video converter like ifunia and handbrake), ipad needs help, let alone html5! So, it's all right that "Google's blobby mystery doodle consumes more CPU than Flash video", just do it.
    Robert penn
  • Uhm, and what happens when all these spam advertisements start falling back to that format? 74% of the web comes to a grinding halt?! that much grief! because Job's didn't want to use an already established format type? Nah I don't think so! not even apple have a large enough user base to justify that one.

    Not to mention the repercussions that would have on weaker web system deployments going on around the world, last time I looked the www was round shaped not apple shaped.
  • @Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe
    > p.s. Have you considered a Win 7 upgrade Jack? ;-)

    This reply is from Windows 7, but I run most things. Ask Jack means I can't afford to stop using XP ;-)
    Jack Schofield