Testing 123: Native Speed Test by Google and MLab

October 01, 2019

This article was first posted on my Medium account.
How do you check if you have internet connection?
Since I started using Google back in my high school days, I used to enter ‘test’ on the Google search bar to see if I’m connected to the internet. That, plus the fact that our house phone cannot be used by everyone else is a clear indicator that I’m online. (read: dial-up modem)
Then came the days of broadband internet and the day I learned about torrents. It was a new thing then, and it really changed the way I obtained and consumed new information. The time it took to download something depended on various criteria (e.g., seeders, file size, internet speed). This is why when downloading open-source programs, life became a lot easier when website/applications like SpeedTest by Ookla came into view.
So today, I went on Google and did the same ‘test’ test, and lo and behold, the usual Top Search which was the Google native definition of the word ‘test’, is no longer there. Replacing the top spot is this Internet speed test block and it came with a very obvious, clickable blue button that said ‘RUN SPEED TEST.’

Of course, I clicked on it.
Surprisingly, instead of directing me to a website, out popped a mini-window that did a 30-sec test for Download Speed and then Upload Speed.

This was so simple, fuss-free and very lightweight. The best thing? I didn’t have to enter a website to find my basic internet speed information. It was such a non-disruptive, delightful user experience that I actually clicked on that neatly placed Feedback link in italics and sent my kudos. And now that I think about it — this helpful experience mainly triggered me to write this post.
Minor questions in my mind: Will this affect SpeedTest by Ookla and other companies of the same nature? If Google’s native speed test gets widely used by the public, SpeedTest’s website visits and app downloads could dramatically go down. Aside from the speed information, what sets these speed test companies apart from Google’s?

This initiative was brought to end-users by a company called Measurement Lab (MLab).
Measurement Lab is led by teams based at Code for Science & Society; New America’s Open Technology Institute; Google, Inc; Princeton University’s PlanetLab; and supported by partners around the world.
Basically, this is like the Avengers of advancing Internet research on global network performance. The service they provide is free, and they aim to provide an open, verifiable measurement platform where end-users, companies and even governments alike can make sense of Internet performance data.
As of writing, I’m based in Singapore — home of one of the fastest internet speed in the world. Even here, I can see how it will be useful for the private broadband providers when they see the baseline for their services vs the price that the consumers pay. This can also be used as important reference in improving/upgrading infrastructure.
Moving closer to my roots, this initiative, if used correctly, can be used by and will be helpful to Emerging Countries like The Philippines. Improving quality of life by ensuring regionally competitive internet speed is a very hot topic back home. The more open resources that are made available, the easier it will be for Filipino citizens and lawmakers to push for better, cheaper and more accessible Internet.
I will end this post with a timely episode from my favourite political-comedy talk show: Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.

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