Wikipedia's Carbon Footprint Is Tiny Compared With Amazon Or Google

You're wrong if you think your favorite websites don't have an impact on the planet.

01/22/2016 06:23 pm ET

The Internet has a massive carbon footprint. The servers that host most Web pages suck up enormous amounts of energy.

So you'd expect the world's seventh most popular website, with more than 38.3 million pages in English alone, to have a pretty hefty appetite for electricity.

Nope.

"We're very small, actually," Jimmy Wales, co-founder and public face of Wikipedia, told The Huffington Post's Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani on Friday at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. "Whereas a Facebook or a Google has millions of servers, we've got several hundred. In terms of our footprint, it's really quite small."

Much of the site is pre-cached, meaning that Wikipedia doesn't have to create a whole new page each time someone clicks on an article. 

"If you go to read the page on Queen Victoria and somebody goes to read the same page, it's already there, we just send it to you," Wales said. "Whereas Facebook, they have to calculate every page. Every time you go on Facebook, there's massive database queries going on to make that page, so you need tons of capacity." 

Bloomberg via Getty Images
This is where Internet happens. 

Wales said Wikipedia's simple design keeps it "lean." 

"Of course we'll update it, clean it up and change it with fashions over time, but fundamentally we like it," Wales said. "It's nice and simple. Everybody knows how to use Wikipedia."

Some big tech companies have taken steps to curb their carbon emissions, or at the very least become more transparent about their energy usage. Apple includes its facilities in its annual environmental responsibility report. Google maintains a page dedicated to the energy efficiency of its data centers. Facebook has posted video tours of one of its data centers, touting its energy efficiency as far back as 2011.

But the problem is that most companies don't host their own sites. Amazon -- a titan in the cloud computing industry with up to 2 million servers worldwide -- has a terrible environmental record

Wikipedia didn't immediately respond to emailed questions about whether any of its servers were powered by renewable energy.

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