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

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.

TOPICS: Tech Industry

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 ;) ”. 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.

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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  • It uses about 20% on my computer. What were you testing it on, and XT?

    What was a real waste of CPU usage was clicking on the Google logo to find out more about buckey ball and having to read this waste of time.

    Buy a faster computer.
    JJ Jetflow
  • Evil? Seems a strong word for what your article, at worst, justifies as incompetent or careless.
  • bloody whiners, you must be running 98 on a 256 RAM, dude it is 2010, i go to the google home page and i always have riva tuner running on my comp, there was no flux in the processors, she was running at an idle 8 to 10% capacity, and for those who's comps overheat, STOP SUFFOCATING THE VENTS!, and heavens sake spend some money on a cooling mat, the google pacman game they had on the pacman anniversery used more processor then a mouse activated spinning ball of pixels
  • what a waste of time this article is. the truth is you probably just have to GET RID OF INTERNET EXPLORER!!! it's the slowest browser known to man
  • Really. If your business computers are that slow. time to upgrade...really. Google is just thinking that a bunch of people don't run windows 95 or 98 anymore.
  • This isn't just ancient machines with archaic operating systems. My dual core machine gets pounded in both Windows XP and Linux (interestingly, Konqueror handles the doodle much better than Firefox does on the same machine.)
  • This article is a waste of internet.

    Who cares if google uses your computer to its full potential? The buckyball doodle was on one single page and a page that people don't typically sit on for hours at a time. I personally thought it was great, played with it for a moment and then proceeded on with my life. No puppies were dead, the world hadn't ended.

    This is either sensationalist bullshit or someone thinking they found a curious but benign phenomenon before anyone else and feeling that they could milk some attention out of it.

    Unless google caused the new zealand earthquake or pakistan flood, shut up and get a clue.
  • Folks,

    The point (beside the obvious) of the Google buckyball animation is that Google has some very bad-ass programmers who did something really very difficult in a language that was, until recently, considered a toy. I wonder how well it rendered on the iPad...
  • You are misinterpreting the last sentence. The reason he is using such a strong word (evil) is because Google's slogan is "Don't be evil". Google "Don't be evil".
  • I'm running XP 32 bit on a Dell Inspiron 5100 with 512MB of RAM, and it was using 80 percent of my cpu. Computer was lagging so horribly when on the Google home page, that I had to use Yahoo. :/

    I can run 3D games and emulators fine, but this simple buckyball script hogs my CPU.
  • Ahh Shut up.
    whinny idiot.
  • ha ha ... maybe html5 and javascript won't replace Flash and Silverlight for animation any time soon.
  • goiiinn -- That's 'inbreds', not 'inbreads'. Sheesh!
  • What I can't figure out is why anyone would want to use Google as a home page. There's nothing on it other than a search box. When I feel like searching for something, I've got a link to Google I can use. For the other 99.9% of the time I'm using my computer, I've got a home page that actually offers me something to look at.
  • I'd rather have the time back that I spent reading this article. How much of the world's productivity have you wasted?
  • Should have used Flash for this sort of thing. Only the toy Macs would have had a problem since King Jobs refuses to share his toy chest.
  • "I'd rather have the time back that I spent reading this article." Second to that. What computer you are using there? Very interesting, my three years old computer didn't stall and it didn't used all the current from the local electricity plant.
  • Switch to Startpage:

    You can add them to your pulldown search list in firefox, dunno about the rest of the browsers.

    Unlike Google, they never track your computer or your searches in any way. I use them for 98% of my searches. No, I'm not affiliated with their company at all, just a satisfied user.
  • Jack, I hereby nickname you "Ebenezer."
    Leorising, I *totally* trust some obscure search engine with no transparent revenue stream to be honest and secure more than I'd trust a larger company with billions of dollars at stake that's dependent upon user-trust. (NOT)
  • WOW, just wow. For this article to be linked to all over the net now is just sad. To bother raising a stink about it and with links to other user's articles is even more pathetic. What's even more sad is that people have the homepage set to Google. Most browsers have Google search in the upper right hand corner that bypasses the front page entirely. Firefox is one of them.

    Gotta love how someone else with no life, bothered leaving the page up for so long to bother walking over to their meter to see the actual increase. Not to mention they are using a MAC Mini for crying out loud.

    And of course these people would never complain if their favorite porn site sent their CPU skyrocketing.

    I only wish it was not past 12, so I could see how much it makes my Dual Core 64 bit Windows 7 computer running 6 gigs of ram work... My thoughts, less than 10%...