Saturday, May 4, 2013

Test Your YouTube Internet Speed

I'm pretty skeptical about Internet speeds. ISPs usually only guarantee you an "up to" speed, like "up to 50 Mbps." This kind of upper bound/maximum promise is, in my opinion, useless. They could promise you speeds "up to 99999 Mbps" and then only give you 1 Mbps (or less), and technically they have fulfilled their promise of giving you "up to 99999 Mbps" (think about it: the only thing they're promising is that they won't give you more than 99999 Mbps, so as long as they give you less than 99999 Mbps, they're keeping the promise). Comcast wouldn't give me any kind of guaranteed minimum or average speeds when I asked them, so I like to test my speeds occasionally to know what they're really giving me. And for good reason:

Sure, my average might be decent, but it's like a roller coaster with lots of disappointing low speeds. I'd prefer a consistent medium speed than a bipolar roller coaster.

Testing YouTube

I just learned about YouTube's speed testing. When you watch videos signed in to your YouTube/Google account, they keep track of how fast your connection is. So go to this page to test your YouTube speed. Near the bottom of that page, you can watch a test video to test your speed in real time. Play the test video. The instructions to 'look next to "Streaming HTTP"' are misleading, because "Streaming HTTP" appears nowhere on the page. Here's how to do it:

  1. Go to YouTube's speed testing page.
  2. Look at your charts to your hearts content.
  3. Click the "Show Test Video" link to show the test video.
  4. Right click on the video while it's playing and select "Show video info".
  5. Look at the statistics by "TagStreamPlayer, HTTP" to see what your kbps are (1000 kbps = 1 Mbps).
  6. If it says "0 kbps", click on the little cog wheel in the video and change the video quality (to anything). If it's saying 0 kbps but the video is playing, it needs help in refreshing its calculations, and by changing the video quality it refreshes things so that the real kbps should be showing.
  7. Change the video quality to whatever you want; I like to test on the highest quality.

The cool part? If you watch any video, you can right click on the video and "Show video info" to get these stats. You can also right click on a video and select "Take speed test" which will take you to this page.

Why not just a normal speed test?

There are several ways to test your Internet speed, but good speeds on one website don't mean good speeds on another website. Whether this is because of "clogged tubes," throttling, a busy server, slooow pings, or any number of other potential issues, is a mystery (unless you take the time to solve it). But if you want to know your speeds on YouTube... well, you might as well use YouTube itself to test.

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