Ookla's speedtest.net

Ookla's speedtest.net is one of the best-known speed tests. In 2020, based on 13 different best speed test lists created or updated in 2020, it was examined what the best speed tests are according to these recommendations. Ookla's Speedtest was clearly the number 1.

May 2022 I googled for best speed test of 2022 and the result will not surprise you. Ookla's Speedtest is:

  1. Mentioned first in CNET's Best Internet Speed Tests of 2022 (link gone)
  2. Mentioned first in ZDNet's The 5 best internet speed tests
  3. Number 1 in Turbo Speed Wifi's Most Accurate Speed Test – 2022 (link gone)
  4. Number 1 in Broadbandsearch's The 7 Best Internet Speed Test Sites
  5. Number 4 in Tom's Guide's Best speed test apps in 2022
  6. Mentioned fourth in Lifewire's Internet Speed Test Sites
  7. Mentioned first in's Best Internet Speed Test in 2022
  8. Mentioned first in TechModena's 10 Best Internet Speed Test 2022
  9. Number 3 in Selectra's The Top 6 Internet Speed Test Websites (2022) (Gone)

No wonder everyone thinks the Ookla Speedtest is the best speed test in the world.

The history of speed tests

Ookla's speedtest.net was not the first speed test available. However, according to the Wayback Machine May 2000 the domain speedtest.net was already in use for an internet speed test in 2000.

The speedtest.net logo of May 2000

For all unique speed tests tested the first occurrence of the speed test in the Wayback Machine is mentioned in the list below.

Besides that, older speed tests mentioned in Google Books, are added to this list.

  1. Testmy.net 1996
  2. Toast 1999
  3. DSLReports 2000
  4. Speedtest.net (not part of Ookla) 2000
  5. Meter.net 2001
  6. Bandwidth Place 2002
  7. MSN Speedtest 2002 (http://tech.msn.com/internet/speedtest.asp) Windows XP Annoyances - Google Books (nowadays broken)
  8. Speakeasy 2002 (http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest) Wayback Machine (nowadays an Ookla Speedtest clone)
  9. TestMySpeed 2002 (http://www.testmyspeed.com) Getting Started with Computing Concepts - Google Books (nowadays an Ookla Speedtest clone)
  10. Speedtest4.php 2004
  11. ADSL Guide 2005 (http://www.adslguide.org.uk/tools/speedtest.asp) The Rough Guide to the Internet - Google Books
  12. Broadband Home Central 2005 (http://www.broadbandhomecentral.com/) Que's Official Internet Yellow Pages - Google Books (nowadays redirected)
  13. PC Pitstop 2005 (http://www.pcpitstop.com/internet/default.asp) Que's Official Internet Yellow Pages - Google Books (nowadays broken)
  14. Broadband Internet Speed test 2005
  15. Ookla Speedtest 2006 (original 2000)
  16. Broadband Speed Checker 2007
  17. RCN 2008
  18. Measurement Lab (M-Lab) 2009
  19. SpeedOf.me 2011
  20. Open Speed Test 2013
  21. nPerf 2014
  22. Comparitech 2015
  23. Google Fiber 2015
  24. SpeedSmart 2015
  25. Fast 2016
  26. LibreSpeed 2016
  27. SamKnows Speed Test 2016
  28. Xfinity Speed Test 2016
  29. Internet Speed at a Glance 2017
  30. Which Broadband Checker 2017
  31. Bredbandskollen 2018
  32. Cloudflare 2020
  33. Fireprobe 2020
  34. CompareSpeedTest 2021
The need for a speed test

Note that the first public speed tests became available in the late 1990s. The reason for this timing is simple. In the late 1990s people were able to replace their 56k modem with broadband internet. Modem users didn't need a speed test at all, they knew that their internet speed is limited by the capacity of the modem used.

With broadband internet, it is much more interesting to measure the internet speed that is delivered by your ISP.

You might expect that soon people will use speed tests to measure the capacity of their home network instead of the capacity of their ISP. With modern 1 Gbps internet subscriptions, there is a good chance that your home network is the weakest link.

Speedtest.net was in 2000 the (shared) third internet speed test, although speedtest.net became the Ookla Speedtest in 2006.

Ookla's Speedtest launched in 2006 and quickly became very popular. Based on several older sources in Google Books like Windows XP Annoyances page 325 (2003) it is clear that before the launch of Ookla's Speedtest the most popular speed tests were: Bandwidthplace (Bandwidthplace on Youtube September 2011) and DSLReports (DSLReports on Youtube May 2007).

Ookla's Speedtest.net

The Ookla Speedtest was very different than the existing speed tests.

  1. Ookla uses an impressive Flash interface
  2. Ookla use servers located all over the world
  3. Ookla made it easy to compare and share your speed test results
  4. Ookla shared the global speed test results
  5. Ookla's Speedtest is approved by most of the major ISPs in the US

In retrospect, it is therefore not surprising that the Ookla speed test quickly became the recommended speed test.

The first occurrence of Ookla's Speedtest in the Wayback Machine is from November 7, 2006.

The first version of Ookla's speedtest is from November 7, 2006

As you can see in the screenshot above, you will notice that:

  1. there is room for 2 ads;
  2. the speed test self is incomplete, there are for example no servers that could be selected (not strange because this image is created with a Flash emulator)
  3. the max speed that could be measured is 10 Mbps
  4. there is a call to action to host your customized version of Speed Test
  5. the history of tests run from your computer will be shown
  6. there is a call to action to share your results with others

From not zero to hero

Again based on Google books you might find the historical popularity of speedtest.net.

The first reference I found to Ookla's Speedtest is from 2006 (!!!) in How to Accelerate Your Internet at page 89.

When you read the following text in the about text of November 7, 2006, it will be clear that speedtest.net got off to a flying start.

(...) The core technology behind Speedtest.net is identical to that of the Ookla Speed Test which is provided to a wide variety of companies and organizations on a licensed basis. Collectively, the application is used over five million times each month by millions of individuals worldwide (...)

September 2007 speedtest.net collected data from nearly 200 million unique speed tests according to a statement of dr. Scott Wallsten, senior fellow and director of communications policy studies, the progress and freedom foundation, Washinton DC for a hearing of the United States Senate (page 67).

2007 a year after Ookla's Speedtest started, this speed test was naturally recommended as the only speed test in PC Magazine (page 60).

(...) Services like Ookla's SpeedTest.net let you pick a server anywhere in the world to see just how fast your broadband really is (...)

Ookla's Flash interface

The Ookla Speedtest uses Adobe Flash for more than 10 years. In the early days of speed tests, Flash was the only reliable base for creating a speed test. More precisely the ActionScript code embedded in the Flash code made it possible to perform a speed test.

From November 2006 till December 2016 there was only a Flash speed test. On Youtube, you will find this recording of a Flash speed test.

The Flash Speedtest Image found at: ShoutMeTech

March 2011 Ookla announced a new version of their Flash speed test with

(...) new social features, more accurate speed tests, and a zoomable map that makes the United States look like a Christmas tree (...)

An alternative for Flash

2011 was also the year that the WebSocket protocol was standardized by the Internet Engineering Task Force. That is important because modern speed tests are based on this WebSocket protocol.

In 2012 the World Wide Web Consortium published the Navigation timing standard. This standard describes an interface that provides Web applications with timing-related information.

On December 4, 2016, users were given the option to visit beta.speedtest.net to try out the new speed test.

More than 2 years after the start of the beta testing period, the new speed test went out of beta on January 9, 2018. This was the end of the Flash speed test.

The Flash Player was deprecated in 2017, so Ookla was relatively late with the switch from Adobe Flash to HTML5.


Outdated assumption?

In retrospect, it seems that Ookla made an assumption in the past, which is nowadays incorrect.

May 7, 2011 TestMy.net published the article Why Do My Results Differ From Speedtest.net / Ookla Speed Tests? with a reference to wiki.ookla.com/test_flow (nowadays gone, but available at the Wayback Machine: wiki.ookla.com/test_flow).

At this page Ookla stated:

  1. Small binary files are downloaded from the web server to the client to estimate the connection speed
  2. Based on this result, one of several file sizes is selected to use for the real download test
  3. The test is performed with cache prevention via random strings appended to each download
  4. Up to 8 parallel HTTP threads (configurable) can be used for the test
  5. Throughput samples are received at up to 30 times per second
  6. These samples are then aggregated into 20 slices (each being 5% of the samples)
  7. The fastest 10% and slowest 30% of the slices are then discarded (see * below for more detail)
  8. The remaining slices are averaged together to determine the final result

* Since we are measuring data transported over HTTP via Flash there is potential protocol overhead, buffering due to the many layers between our application and the raw data transfer and throughput bursting due primarily to CPU usage. This accounts largely for dropping the top 10% and bottom 10% of the samples. We also keep our default test length short for the user experience, and compared to this duration the ramp-up period is fairly significant driving us to eliminate another 20% of the bottom result samples.

In other words Ookla used to measure (100 - 10 =) 90% of your internet speed.

Nowadays, with modern HTML5 based speed tests, Ookla still measures 90% of your internet speed.

Is this a outdated assumption? The 10% safety margin needed for the potential protocol overhead has not been found to be necessary in any speed test measurements performed for the Ultimate Speed Test Test.

Probably the quality of the internet connections has had a boost, so that this protocol overhead is now minimal.

The consequence of this assumption is that your true internet speed is nowadays 12% higher than the advertised internet speed.

Ookla's speed test explained

The best explanation of how Ookla's speed test works is probably given by Ookla itself in the YouTube video Ookla Speedtest from April 2015.

How Speedtest measures the download speed (YouTube screenshot)

In this video, it is stated that speed test stats could be found at netindex.com. This site is nowadays redirecting to the Speedtest Global Index.

The Ookla Speedtest is so popular that specific measures are needed for Speedtest to work properly.

Ookla uses a large Speedtest Server Network for their Speedtest to guarantee their customers accurate and reliable measurements.

July 2021, Amazon Web Services (AWS) created a YouTube video in which is explained how Ookla uses AWS to process 4,000 reports per second while providing near real-time insights.

A speed test for everyone

Ookla offers its speed test in multiple languages and created a version of its speed test for several systems (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Chrome, Apple TV, CLI and VPN). All available options could be found at www.speedtest.net.

Besides these versions, Ookla makes it very simple to create a customized version of the Ookla Speedtest. A lot of ISPs have done this, hence there is a countless number of speed tests available based on the Ookla Speedtest.

Should I use Ookla's Speedtest

Despite the name recognition and popularity, Ookla's Speedtest does not come out on top in the ultimate speed test test.

The main reason for this is that the Ookla Speedtest is relatively slow. The Ookla Speedtest is not recommended, with 39 seconds to complete the knockout criterion of 30 seconds is not met.

When you complain about your internet speed with your ISP it is recommended to use the speed test of your ISP. More often than not your ISP recommends their clone of the Ookla Speedtest or the original Ookla Speedtest.

In the speed test overview you find all findings regarding the Ookla Speedtest.