Timing HTTP Requests with cURL

Sometimes you just need to quickly benchmark how fast a page can be loaded (or fetched to be more precise). For these cases, cURL is a great option for timing HTTP requests.

$ curl -s -w "%{time_total}\n" -o /dev/null http://www.google.com/

Want a few more datapoints?? Thanks to ZSH, it’s easy to just loop around it:

$ for i in {1..3}; curl -s -w "%{time_total}\n" -o /dev/null http://www.google.com/

And if you’re a bash lover:

$ for i in {1..3};do curl -s -w "%{time_total}\n" -o /dev/null http://www.google.com/; done

Default behavior on cURL is GET, but you can do POST, DELETE, PUT and more complex requests. If you’re not familiar with cURL, best place to start is the manpage.

Besides “time_total”, curl also provides other timing, like “time_namelookup”, “time_connect”, etc. Checking a post by Joseph, I remembered that curl supports formatted output. This way we can create a “template” for our HTTP timing test:

Assuming the format file is named “curl-format”, we can execute a request:

$ curl -w "@curl-format" -o /dev/null -s http://www.google.com/
            time_namelookup:  0.416
               time_connect:  0.435
            time_appconnect:  0.000
           time_pretransfer:  0.435
              time_redirect:  0.000
         time_starttransfer:  0.488
                 time_total:  0.491


  • -w “@curl-format” tells cURL to use our format file
  • -o /dev/null redirects the output of the request to /dev/null
  • -s tells cURL not to show a progress bar
  • http://www.google.com/ is the URL we are requesting

The timings are DNS lookup, TCP connect, pre-transfer negotiations, start to end of transfer, redirects (in this case there were none), time to first byte, and total time (last byte), respectively.

Looking for something a bit more “complete”? You can always try Apache Benchmark:

$ ab -n 3 http://www.google.com/
This is ApacheBench, Version 2.3 <$Revision: 655654 $>
Copyright 1996 Adam Twiss, Zeus Technology Ltd, http://www.zeustech.net/
Licensed to The Apache Software Foundation, http://www.apache.org/
Benchmarking www.google.com (be patient).....done
Server Software: gws
Server Hostname: www.google.com
Server Port: 80
Document Path: /
Document Length: 10928 bytes
Concurrency Level: 1
Time taken for tests: 0.231 seconds
Complete requests: 3
Failed requests: 2
(Connect: 0, Receive: 0, Length: 2, Exceptions: 0)
Write errors: 0
Total transferred: 35279 bytes
HTML transferred: 32984 bytes
Requests per second: 12.99 [#/sec] (mean)
Time per request: 76.999 [ms] (mean)
Time per request: 76.999 [ms] (mean, across all concurrent requests)
Transfer rate: 149.15 [Kbytes/sec] received
Connection Times (ms)
min mean[+/-sd] median max
Connect: 19 21 1.8 22 22
Processing: 50 56 5.3 59 61
Waiting: 46 51 4.0 53 53
Total: 73 77 5.0 79 82
Percentage of the requests served within a certain time (ms)
50% 76
66% 76
75% 82
80% 82
90% 82
95% 82
98% 82
99% 82
100% 82 (longest request)
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6 thoughts on “Timing HTTP Requests with cURL

  1. […] Timing HTTP Requests with cURL – overloaded.io […]

  2. I prefer wrk (https://github.com/wg/wrk) over ab. Just sayin’. I think it’s more sophisticated and has better results. Also it doesn’t try to send X requests — it sends as many as requests as possible for X time/duration. Which is a more real world approach.

  3. Hi , Thanks.. Very useful info . I have a question though..

    I was ablt to get the total time it took for server to send response.. now based on the response time I want to decide I want to proceed with my program or exit out.. Any ideas?

  4. Nice. How do I also include the current date+time of when the curl initiated the HTTP request?

    • Start date and time are not part of curl’s format, but you can easily include the date command in the curl loop:

      for i in {1..3}; { date; curl -s -w "%{time_total}\n" -o /dev/null http://google.com/ }

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