Just the facts, ma'am/man
June 15, 2024 8:10 AM   Subscribe

There are a variety of "low-carbon" or "bandwidth-friendly" variants of news sites out there that load headlines with little styling and no images, such as CBC Lite, and much, much more.

With a huge hat tip to AskMe contributors, these include:

News sites:
CBC Lite (Canada)
NPR Text (USA)
CNN Lite (USA)
PBS Lite (USA)
Times Wire (thumbnail images; USA)
ESPN Scoreboard (US sports, scores only)
Christian Science Monitor Text (World)
Neuters (text-only Reuters)

News aggregators:
brutalist.report (default is tech-focused)
newsasfacts.com (global / politics)
legiblenews.com (Condensed Wikipedia news)
poandpo.com (starts with politics/global, scroll down for 'magazine' topics)
68k.news (text-only Google news)
News Minimalist (ChatGPT generated list of stories with a 'significance score' over 5.5)
Skimfeed (headline links from many newspapers, magazines)

United Nations COP28 website has a "low carbon" toggle
Human Rights Watch Text (curated human rights headlines)
posted by Shepherd (17 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
In a similar vein for sports, I’ve been using and appreciating plaintextsports.com for a while now.
posted by hundred_echoes at 9:11 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]

...oh. apparently i can have a plain text news site or a news site with rss, but never the twain shall meet.
posted by Clowder of bats at 11:41 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]

Not a news site, but of course there's also the solar-powered (so it might not be on when you click it) Low-Tech Magazine.
posted by clawsoon at 1:38 PM on June 15 [6 favorites]

This Metafilter post is my new news hub.
posted by krisjohn at 8:13 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]

Nice list. One quibble - it might be a stretch to call a ChatGPT-powered site "low-carbon".
posted by Umami Dearest at 10:11 PM on June 15 [6 favorites]

I like Today’s Guardian which organises the Guardian like the print edition, but in a mainly text format.
posted by Hartster at 1:48 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]

This is amazing, thank you!
posted by hydropsyche at 3:24 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]

...oh. apparently i can have a plain text news site or a news site with rss, but never the twain shall meet.

For a few of the news sites, if you're comfortable with browser addons you could use the Redirector extension (open source, for Firefox/Chrome/Edge/Opera) to redirect full articles to their lite/text versions and then just subscribe to the regular RSS feeds. Then when you click on a link from the feed (or from anywhere, really) you'd get the text version.

Far from ideal and it's a quick and dirty fix, but I think the redirect rules below are scoped to only handle their current article URLs structure so it shouldn't break the homepages or non-article pages. Doesn't really help for mobile, I know. CBC has a feedback request form for the lite version if you want to suggest native lite RSS feeds (I just did) (form was found from their lite version release notes).

poandpo.com does have RSS feeds for the lite versions, it's just poorly discoverable. Pick a feed from the lite RSS feeds page - they're linked as the full feed URLs, but if you just change 'www' to 'lite' in the feed URL they work properly and link to the lite articles.

CBC Rule:
CBC Lite
Example URL:      https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/yellowstone-wolf-907f-1.7228385
Include pattern:  ^https://(?:www\.)?cbc\.ca/.*/.*/.*-([0-9]\.[0-9]+).*
Redirect to:      https://www.cbc.ca/lite/story/$1
Pattern type:     Regular Expression

CNN Rule:
CNN Lite
Example URL:      https://www.cnn.com/2024/05/26/us/extreme-heat-risk-tracker-dg/index.html
Include pattern:  ^https://(?:www\.)?cnn\.com/(\d{4}/\d{2}/\d{2}/.*)
Redirect to:      https://lite.cnn.com/$1
Pattern type:     Regular Expression

CS Monitor Rule:
CS Monitor Text
Example URL:      https://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2024/0614/musk-tesla-shareholders-ceo-pay
Include pattern:  ^https://(?:www\.)?csmonitor\.com/(.*\d{4}/\d{4}/.*)
Redirect to:      https://www.csmonitor.com/text_edition/$1
Pattern type:     Regular Expression

NPR Rule:
Example URL:      https://www.npr.org/2024/06/15/nx-s1-5007404/biden-supreme-court-vacancies-trump
Include pattern:  ^https://(?:www\.)?npr\.org/\d{4}/\d{2}/\d{2}/(.*)/.*
Redirect to:      https://text.npr.org/$1
Pattern type:     Regular Expression

posted by 1xdevnet at 6:13 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]

Low-Tech Magazine.

this is awesome; thanks, clawsoon.
posted by busted_crayons at 6:44 AM on June 16

What sort of savings are we talking about here? When does it become worthwhile to do this with lower volume sites? Is it worth me getting my institution to look at this?
posted by biffa at 8:48 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]

oh, well done! i DO have and use redirector and that combo had not occured to me.
posted by Clowder of bats at 5:05 PM on June 16

What sort of savings are we talking about here? When does it become worthwhile to do this with lower volume sites? Is it worth me getting my institution to look at this?

It depends on the site I suppose, and how heavy your organization's site is in terms of network requests and page size. As far as the savings from a user perspective: for the four news sites that I set up redirects for, I loaded an article from each one in a clean session with no ad blocker or other page content extensions active. (same four URLs that I used as examples in the Redirector rules above) and used the Developer Tools window's Network tab in Firefox to get a very rough estimate of the timing and usage until each page finished loading everything - 'finished' meaning everything that wasn't tracking pixels/analytics had stopped sending requests.

Regular: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/yellowstone-wolf-907f-1.7228385
    15 seconds, 648 requests, 4.5MB transferred
Lite: https://www.cbc.ca/lite/story/1.7228385
    1.86 seconds, 36 requests, 294KB transferred
12% of the load time, 5.5% of the network requests, 6.4% of the data usage.

Regular: https://www.cnn.com/2024/05/26/us/extreme-heat-risk-tracker-dg/index.html
    12.6 seconds, 700 requests, 50.9MB transferred
Lite: https://lite.cnn.com/2024/05/26/us/extreme-heat-risk-tracker-dg/index.html
    565 milliseconds, 2 requests, 28.6KB transferred
4.4% of the load time, 0.28% of the network requests, 0.6% of the data usage.

Regular: https://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2024/0614/musk-tesla-shareholders-ceo-pay
    4 seconds, 168 requests, 3.8MB transferred
Lite: https://www.csmonitor.com/text_edition/Business/2024/0614/musk-tesla-shareholders-ceo-pay
    2.4 seconds, 84 requests, 1.67MB transferred
60% of the load time, 50% of the network requests, 44% of the data usage.

Regular: https://www.npr.org/2024/06/15/nx-s1-5007404/biden-supreme-court-vacancies-trump
    16.5 seconds, 365 requests, 6.8MB transferred
Lite: https://text.npr.org/nx-s1-5007404
    860 milliseconds, 1 request, 3.5KB transferred
5.2% of the load time, 0.27% of the network requests, 0.5% of the data usage.

Ad blocking probably trims down the regular versions a fair amount and a lot of what's loaded on an initial page view may be cached to be reused when viewing other articles in the same session, but that still seems like a significant drop if you're on a slow connection or have a limited data allowance.
posted by 1xdevnet at 9:19 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]

Thanks for this 1xdevnet. I have added this to my list of student projects for next year (energy engineers) with a view to looking into whether the energy saving is worthwhile to pursue against how often our public facing pages are downloaded. It seems hard to get good up to date data for data transfer based on a quick look. It was estimated at 0.06 kWh/GB back in 2015 but with the codicil that it goes down by 50% every ~2 years. I haven't looked very hard as yet though (still marking this year's projects) so there may be something out there to give more recent data.
posted by biffa at 2:18 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

Mod note: This post was so lite, it was easy to put in the sidebar and Best Of blog!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 5:40 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]

That sounds like it'd be an interesting project! Just throwing in a few links that may (or may not) be worth looking at for newer data. Apologies for any duplicated effort or irrelevant content, as this is very much outside my expertise.

- https://sustainablewebdesign.org/estimating-digital-emissions/ includes a few links to research from 2020-2023 under the "System Segments" section, though getting actual numbers is proving tricky. https://www.iea.org/commentaries/the-carbon-footprint-of-streaming-video-fact-checking-the-headlines and the response analysis specifically covers streaming video, and partially shifts things to kWh/'viewing hour' which seems floatier since data transferred could fluctuate so much due to bitrate/resolution.

TLDR; the Sustainable Web Design link uses 2020 IEA data that I couldn't find directly but calculates it as 0.059 kWh/GB, while a revised Shift Project estimate may be 0.058 kWh/GB as of 2019 and dropping by 10-15% each year but also may be 0.1-0.2kWh/GB for 4G mobile data (p16 of the response link).

- Sustainable Web Design Community Group - https://www.w3.org/community/sustyweb/, specifically the references in the draft spec, and people in the mailing list or Slack might be helpful for tracking down research with newer estimates?

- Tool that attempts to measure energy and CO2 down to the page request, though more for integrating into containerized workloads: https://github.com/green-coding-solutions/green-metrics-tool & https://docs.green-coding.io/docs/prologue/introduction/ - https://www.green-coding.io/projects/energy-id/ has pre-calculated metrics for various open source software packages.

Client-side again, it looks like both Firefox 104+ on Windows 11 & MacOS with Apple Silicon (M# processors) and Safari on Apple Silicon have the ability in their developer tools (Performance/Profiler tab for Firefox & via https://profiler.firefox.com, "Energy Impact" section of Safari's Timelines tab) to query power usage APIs from the operating system. I don't have Win11 or a recent Mac so I can't test that, but it looks like they may measure energy used by the entire system rather than trying to single out specific page loads/requests. Running idle baselines would maybe help narrow that down though it doesn't cover the data transfer side of things specifically. https://www.devsustainability.com/p/measuring-website-energy-consumption has a brief summary about both, with more info at WebKit blog and Mozilla's FOSDEM 2023 talks about the power profiler and energy usage of Firefox itself.
posted by 1xdevnet at 5:45 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]

I know this is about news sites, but Facebook has a similar lite site: mbasic.facebook.com. So if you're stuck on Facebook because people won't stop organizing groups there 😡, at least you can use the mbasic site which is snappy, has fewer dark patterns, and doesn't encourage as much useless scrolling.
posted by Tehhund at 8:58 AM on June 20

Facebook has a similar lite site: mbasic.facebook.com.

Super helpful! Thanks for sharing this.
posted by Shepherd at 3:52 AM on June 21

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