As comScore reports growing usage of the Twitter social networking service, and more people are spending even more time online, Gartner issues dire warnings about the environmental impact of data centres, PCs - and ultimately the Internet
We are all spending more time online: not only has the Internet become an integral part of many people's working lives, but some of us would simply not be able to do our jobs without it.
Now the Internet has wormed its way into our private lives, with social networks abounding. We have Facebook "friends" we don't even like, and your worst enemy can find out what you are up to via Twitter. It's pretty scary if you think about it.
But the Internet is like a drug: Nokia's Charmaine Eggberry, who until recently was a key figure at Research in Motion, was right to describe the always-on BlackBerry messaging devices as "CrackBerrys" because of our ongoing addiction to being online and contactable all the time.
Twitter is fuelled by the same desires, and usage of the social networking service is growing exponentially. According to latest figures from the comScore research company, almost 93 million unique Internet users aged 15 and over visited Twitter.com in June - a rise of 109% over the previous year. This even excludes usage of Twitter-based applications such as TweetDeck.
The highest penetration, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, is in Indonesia, where 20.8% of all Internet users visited Twitter in June. Brazil and Venezuela were next in line.
"Twitter.com has experienced an explosion in global traffic over the past year, establishing itself as one of the most-visited social networking sites across each of the five worldwide regions," said Graham Mudd, comScore vice president, search & media, in a press statement. "Today nearly three out of four global Internet users access social networking sites each month, making it one of the most ubiquitous activities across the Web."
An analysis of the five major global regions by comScore revealed that Latin America experienced the strongest audience growth, surging 305% to 15.4 million users. Asia Pacific ranked as the second-fastest growing region, climbing 243% to 25.1 million visitors. The Middle East and Africa jumped 142% to 5 million visitors, while Europe soared 106% to 22.5 million visitors. North America, where Twitter has reached a higher maturity level than other regions, saw a growth of 22% to nearly 25 million visitors in June.
Smartphone usage is also driving Twitter adoption in the US and Europe: comScore said in the US, 8.3% of smartphone users (4.2 million people) accessed Twitter.com in a month, while in Europe the overall average was 2.8% of 1.7 million smartphone users.
The message is hard to ignore: Internet-based applications that allow people to easily communicate with each other are in heavy demand and usage is likely to keep on growing both at work and at home. Such applications also increasingly include video, and indeed videoconferencing software or telepresence is on most company agendas as they seek to cut costs and reduce their carbon footprint.
Not so fast, says research and analysis company Gartner. To be able to use the Internet we rely on PCs, mobile devices and of course data centres to store those cumbersome but necessary things, servers.
It's no secret that data centres can be unwieldy beasts that still need some tinkering to get their CO2 emissions under control. But the picture painted by Gartner looks even worse than most people probably realised: according to Gartner, data centres account for 23% of global ICT emissions, while the ICT industry as a whole produces 2% of global CO2 emissions, "placing it on a par with the aviation industry".
So slashing long-distance travel in favour of long-winded telepresence meetings suddenly looks less like the greener option...
Even worse, Gartner says PCs and monitors account for a whopping 40% of ICT emissions. And the situation is set to get worse as data centre emissions are rising even more quickly that PC emissions.
"Not enough attention has been paid to reducing the data centre's carbon emissions," observes Rakesh Kumar, research vice-president at Gartner, in a press release. "Data centres account for such a large portion of ICT CO2 emissions for three main reasons: There is a lack of floor-space, a failure to house high-density servers and increased power consumption and heat generation. These three issues will affect the cost of running a data centre. For example, Gartner predicts energy consumption of microprocessors alone will rise for the next ten years."
Kumar provides several suggestions to help contain the situation. It's to be hoped that companies and Internet service providers all over the world have already got some more sustainable policies in place if the situation is not to get any worse very soon...