I noticed today that the iNaturalist website is really working my CPU in a way that there is no legitimate reason for it to be.
In response to requests on these forums for people to ID more plants, I’ve been spending a good amount of time daily identifying plants. Typically what I do is to go to the “identify” screen, limit myself to a particular species or broader taxon, and a region, usually the Mid-Atlantic states, and then from there I open a whole bunch of observations in new tabs, so that I can go through them one-by-one.
I have been shocked at the CPU usage. I have an 8-core processor and often if I open many (10 or more) tabs at once it engages all my CPU’s and total usage is well in the multiple hundreds of percents. This makes my laptop’s fan start chugging and causes it to draw a lot of power.
This is incredibly wasteful. All I’m trying to do is open a webpage and look at images…there is no need to use this much CPU, given the amount of content is on the page. I was curious to compare this to a site with similarly complex pages that I designed, and I went over there and opened 10 tabs of pages of similar complexity. The amount of information on the page is slightly less, but the pages are comparable overall. Not only did they load faster, the CPU was doing much less work. I could open 10 pages at once and the CPU usage stayed under one full core total, with a single core engaging <50%, and settled back to near-zero usage much faster. It didn’t cause my fan to turn on either.
I started looking more carefully, and I realized that even really minimal actions on the iNaturalist website really work the CPU hard. For example, clicking “agree” on an observation, something that I would expect to involve almost no CPU usage, causes quite a lot of CPU usage. Even opening a single observation often sends the CPU usage up over 50% and takes as long to settle down as it took 10 tabs on this other site to settle down.
As iNaturalist is used by lots of people, this CPU usage is going to add up and contribute to wasted electricity usage and carbon emissions.
What the heck is the website doing that it is wasting so much CPU? And what can we do to get this addressed? This is really bad.
This stuff matters. I would like to see this addressed somehow.
Besides the electricity usage issue, it also slows down my use of the site considerably. Given that I have an extremely high-end laptop that is brand spanking new…I can’t imagine how much this could hinder the accessibility and usage of the site for people using the site on more humble hardware.
This is also an issue of concern…both because it could limit the site’s usability for people without high-end hardware, and because it could limit the speed with which people use the site, which could reduce the amount of data and engagement we have. There is persistent feedback that iNaturalist needs more people doing ID…so it would make sense to make it as easy, accessible, and seamless to do so as possible, especially when it comes to things where there is no objective reason for the site to be as cumbersome on the CPU as it is.
I’m using Chrome 75 for reference. Out of curiosity and to help troubleshoot, I also tested things out in Firefox and things were worse, not better, and I also tested things out when not logged on (to try to check whether or not it was the notification system or other features only activated by logged on users causing the problem) and there was no appreciable change.