Fathom: A Browser-based Network Measurement Platform

TitleFathom: A Browser-based Network Measurement Platform
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsDhawan, M.., Samuel J.., Teixeira R., Kreibich C., Allman M., Weaver N., & Paxson V.
Other Numbers3373

For analyzing network performance issues, there can be great utility in having the capability to measure directly from the perspective of end systems. Because end systems do not provide any external programming interface to measurement functionality, obtaining this capability today generally requires installing a custom executable on the system, which can prove prohibitively expensive. In this work we leverage the ubiquity of web browsers to demonstrate the possibilities of browsers themselves offering such a programmable environment. We present Fathom, a Firefox extension that implements a number of measurement primitives that enable websites or other parties to program network measurements using JavaScript. Fathom is lightweight, imposing < 3.2% overhead in page load times for popular web pages, and often provides 1 ms timestamp accuracy. We demonstrate Fathom’s utility with three case studies: providing a JavaScript version of the Netalyzr network characterization tool, debugging web access failures, and enabling web sites to diagnose performance problems of their clients.


This work was partially supported by funding provided to ICSI through National Science Foundation grants CNS-0831535 (“Comprehensive Application Analysis and Control”) and CNS-1111672 ("Measuring and Modeling the Dynamics of IPv4 Address Exhaustion"). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors or originators and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Bibliographic Notes

Proceedings of the 2012 Internet Measurement Conference (IMC 2012), Boston, Massachusetts

Abbreviated Authors

M. Dhawan, J. Samuel, R. Teixeira, C. Kreibich, M. Allman, N. Weaver, and V. Paxson

ICSI Research Group

Networking and Security

ICSI Publication Type

Article in conference proceedings