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Disabled. This was an interesting project, but the results were not widely used, and periodic breakages due to its mostly-but-not-entirely-automated nature resulted in time spent doing maintenance that had no clear benefit. If any interest in this project rises again, we can resurrect the system and hopefully make improvements to ease maintenance.

However, SpeedTests lives on in a new project, a fork designed for measuring HTML game performance:


Results were hosted at


SpeedTests is a semiautomated system that runs a suite of JS-based tests on a series of browsers. Tests are generally free form but are expected to (a) report results and (b) have a definite termination point, for which purpose a small set of JavaScript functions are provided. Tests include suitable modified versions of the IE Test Drive tests, Kraken, V8, and test262.


Conceptually the system can be split into four parts: the tests, the browser controller, the report server, and test server (the latter two may be combined). However they are best understood by looking at the whole process rather than the individual parts.

Upon starting, the browser controller first fetches a list of tests from the server (in case any have been added or removed since last run--this means clients do not have to be updated when tests change). It has a list of browsers likely to be installed on the target platform, and iterates through the existing browsers, running each one with each test, separately. The controller loads a fresh profile before executing each test, and shuts down the browser after each test finishes, to eliminate interactions between tests. It has a simple HTTP server running on a special port, which proxies the tests from the test server, to get around cross-domain restrictions, and which collects the results from the browser after each test finishes.

The tests use a common set of JavaScript functions to collect and report results. The browser controller collects results from each browser and forwards them onto the results server (the latter can be disabled for local testing). When the last browser has executed the last test, the controller shuts down its HTTP server, prints a report to stdout, and exits.

The test server can be the same server as the results server, or it can be separate. In the current setup, they are separated, with the test server running on the internal network, since we can't distribute the modified tests. It is the test server that also serves up the JS library for reporting results.

SpeedTests also supports JSON web tokens for signing results, in case results must be served over the Internet (for example, the client and the results server being on separate internal networks).

The location of the test and result servers is configured in an ini file on the client.


The browser controller is a single Python file, requiring an installation of Python 2.6 or higher. We may build a standalone Windows executable with py2exe for convenience.

The server is a Python application using the framework along with a MySQL database to store results.

Tests are HTML, JavaScript, and associated files. The server also provides a file containing several JavaScript functions to be used to collect and report results.

Source code is in hg:

Unfortunately, I think legal restrictions prevent us from distributing the Microsoft-originated tests themselves.

SpeedTests are semiautomated in that nothing is provided to automatically apply OS and browser updates nor disable said updates while a test is in progress. At the moment, most network access is restricted via DNS to prevent updates, and an admin manually performs the updates every few weeks. The exception here is Firefox Nightly, which is automatically updated on every run.

Client Configuration

First, you need a speedtests.conf file alongside You will need at least a [speedtests] section specifying server locations. For example:

server_url =
test_base_url =
server_results_url =

In this case, there is a speedtests server running on on port 8888, acting as both a test and a results server. "server_url" refers to the dynamic part of the test server, which is used to get the list of existing tests. "test_base_url" is the root of the html test files (e.g. Kraken, fishtank, etc.). The client sends its results to "server_results_url" after tests finish executing.

The speedtests client looks in the usual spot for the browsers, e.g. /usr/bin/firefox on Linux or $PROGRAMFILES\Mozilla\Mozilla Firefox on Windows. You can override these with a [<platform name>] section containing options in the form <browser> = <path>. For example, to override the location of Firefox on Linux, add this to speedtests.conf:

firefox = /opt/firefox/firefox

The main configuration task is unfortunately not easy. All the browsers must have a stored profile that permits its browser to

  • open a new window (all tests are run in a separate window to control window size)
  • AJAX calls, to send the results to localhost
  • load a page from localhost

Some browsers are more particular than others about what is allowed out of the box.

The profiles should also have empty caches or a clear-cache-on-exit setting. This ensures that any changes to the tests on the server will be picked up the next time the clients are run.

I have been collecting some stock profiles, but unfortunately they are not always compatible between releases. The most reliable way to set up the stored profiles is through the "archive" and "load" commands, followed by testing in testmode (see below).

Finally, in order to prevent updates to browsers that might affect performance while tests are being run, it is recommended that the network be partially disabled, with access only to the test server. This can be done by disabling DNS and putting the server IP into the hosts file. A standalone script,, has been provided to enable and disable the DNS on Windows machines (must be run as administrator).


The client can be started by just running "python". If you don't want to run all the browsers, you can append a list of desired browsers, e.g. "python nightly 'internet explorer' chrome". You can also use the "-t" option to provide a test path. Note that in this case does not fetch the test list from the server, so you have to provide the full (relative) path, e.g. -t test262/default.html.

Adding "--noresults" will prevent the client from sending the results back to the test server. Results will still be output to the terminal.

It can also be run in test mode by appending the "--testmode" option. This causes the server to return simple test pages that do not run any tests but exercise the framework itself, namely, ensuring that the browser can deal with popups, accessing localhost, etc.

There are also two commands to help you set up and test the stored profiles:

  • archive <browser>: Store the current profile for <browser>
  • load <browser>: Starts <browser> with the currently stored profile

Client Maintenance

As mentioned above, we limit network access on the test machine in order to prevent browser and system updates, which might throw off results if a test is running at the same time. Unfortunately this requires periodic manual maintenance in order to install desired updates (e.g. to test against recent browser releases), but it should be minimal. It should be possible to do this sort of thing by configuring the host appropriately (using enterprise-level settings/software), but I haven't looked into that yet.

Network access is limited by setting the DNS server to localhost, i.e. an invalid host. Thus all DNS lookups, except those in the hosts file, will fail, preventing the majority of Internet access. The helper program, distributed with the SpeedTests client, can be used to disable and re-enable DNS.

This is the process for updating a SpeedTest client:

  1. Open MozPrompt (on the desktop) as administrator.
  2. Go to the speedtests client directory (generally /Users/mozilla/speedtests/client).
  3. Run python enable to enable full network access.
  4. Run Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, checking each for updates.
  5. Run the Apple Updater to look for Safari updates (don't install other software like Quicktime!).
  6. Run Windows Update.
  7. Run Windows Update again to see if there are subsequent updates.
  8. Run python disable to disable full network access.
  9. Reboot.

Note that it is unnecessary to update Nightly, since the client automatically downloads the latest version.

Setting up browser profiles

This is the trickiest part. The framework needs relatively clean profiles with nothing cached, with popups enabled for the test server (since tests are opened in a separate window to control the size), and with access to localhost permitted (only an issue with Opera, I believe). There are also other random things that need to be dismissed, like add-on compatibility dialogs.

When setting up a new client, I first start a test run with --testmode. This will verify most of the settings without having to sit through all the tests. If I see a browser not being able to load a test, I stop the controller, set all the correct permissions, clear the cache, and run python archive <browser name>, where <browser name> is one of firefox, nightly, safari, "internet explorer", or chrome. To retest this browser, I start the tests again in testmode, providing the browser name. However, this won't quite work in Linux, since killing the speedtests client will kill the browser subprocess as well... So this method will have to be refined.

If something funny is still happening, you can run with --noresults, which will execute the full tests but not report results back to the server, so you don't have to worry about affecting the results with VNC open (VNC is *supposed* to not interfere with framerates, but I have my doubts...).

Major Tasks Remaining

  • Improve packaging and setup, particularly for dev environments.
  • Support for mobile browsers (probably via AutoPhone).
  • Set up a Mac box.
  • Set up a Linux box.