Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Having multiple websites open should have no impact on your internet bandwidth usage, unless those sites are actively uploading or downloading data.
My brother complains to my dad that his video games are slow because I have tabs open on my browser (formerly, Internet Explorer, now Firefox 4) and I am "chewing up the bandwidth". Usually, one is Facebook and others are miscellaneous blogs. I am not the most computer-savvy person, but I know from computer-savvy friends that bandwidth doesn't work that way. How can I explain to my dad that that's not how bandwidth works and therefore, I don't have to shut down tabs?
Usually, that's not how bandwidth works. I'll certainly agree that it's extremely unlikely that tabs in your browser have anything to do with your brother's video game speed.
But (and there's always a but), there are scenarios where what you're doing in your browser may have an impact.
It's more likely that other things are happening on your system or your network.
Bandwidth is all about data transfer. Your internet connection can only transmit data at a certain rate, so if you're doing something, like playing a game, which requires continuous data transfer, other things which are also transferring data at the same time might impact it.
For the most part, once a web page has been shown in your browser, there's no more downloading going on. There are no file transfers, no ongoing internet activity - the page is just sitting there in your browser looking pretty, waiting for you to do something with it.
The act of browsing to a page and causing it to be displayed causes internet activity, but once it's displayed, that's over.
So, no, those multiple tabs of web pages aren't likely to be impacting anyone's gaming experience.
Some web pages actually do maintain some small amount of data transfer while they're sitting there "doing nothing".
Facebook is actually a good example. Every so often, the web page re-connects to Facebook and looks for updates to whatever it is that you're displaying. It may then download updates to your wall, or just update the unread message count icon. Either way, the web page in the browser on your computer had to talk to the mothership - facebook.com - to ask it if there were any updates and get them if there were.
Other sites, mostly feature-laden sites and services, like Gmail, Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, and others, will all do things like this to some degree.
And to be clear, it's a very small amount of bandwidth in comparison and it's not going to impact anyone's gaming experience.
You probably already realize this, but if the tabs that you have open are all downloading files, or if you are viewing YouTube videos or streaming online video from sites like Hulu or Netflix, then yes, those are continuous uses of enough bandwidth that they may very well impact other users on your network.
Naturally, if you're playing an online game at the same time, that would also have an impact.
But these are obvious: they're transferring large amounts of data continuously.
The trick, the key, to understanding what might impact others on your network, like your brother playing an online game, is that the impact must be an ongoing data transfer of some sort.
As we've seen, just having a lot of browser tabs open doesn't do that.
But other things might.
What tends to impact me the most often is Windows Update.
I have several computers that are all set to automatically download updates when they become available. That typically qualifies as a "large ongoing data transfer", and I've seen it impact other things that I'm doing. (Same for my Mac and Linux machines that also have an automatic update facility enabled.)
I'm certainly not saying that what your brother is experiencing is due to Windows Update (which could be his machine or yours), but simply use that as an example that other things which you might not be aware of could be using bandwidth that you hadn't expected.
And yes, that could slow a game down.
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