Evaluating web user perceived latency using server side measurements

Marik Marshak, Hanoch Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The central performance problem in the World Wide Web, in recent years, is user perceived latency. This is the time spent by a user while waiting for a Web page he/she requested. Impatience with poor performance is the most common reason visitors terminate their visit at Web sites. For e-commerce sites, such abandonment translates into lost revenue. For this reason, measuring the delay experienced by its customers is of high importance to a Web site. These measurements are critical for analyzing the site behavior and to size its components. As of today the main tool for conducting such measurements are external, client-side tools, whereby agents located on the net request pages from the site and measure its latency. In this paper we propose a novel solution that conducts the measurements of the user perceived delay at the Web site. The major advantage of this measurement approach, as opposed to client side approach, is that it can evaluate the latency experienced by each and every client (regardless of its network location). Further, this estimate can be conducted at real time, thus allowing the server to control its operation and prioritize the requests based on the actual performance observed by the clients. The solution does not require any agents to be placed at the net. Further, it does not sniff low-level protocols (that is, IP protocols) and is all based on implementation at the HTTP level. As such, it is very efficient and economical. The solution is based on a novel technique in which a special tiny HTTP object, which is called the sentry and which is inserted at the end of the HTTP document, assists in measuring the user perceived latency. The algorithm is implemented on the Apache server. The implementation was tested throughout an extensive array of tests and found to provide very accurate measures (whose relative errors were in the order of several percents only).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)872-887
Number of pages16
JournalComputer Communications
Issue number8
StatePublished - 20 May 2003


  • HTTP
  • Local measuring
  • Perceived user latency
  • Web server


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