In September of 2020, big news was released – Catchpoint would be acquiring WebPageTest. This is obviously very exciting news, but a little uncertainty comes with it. Webpagetest.org is one of the premier page speed auditing services in the industry. Many of you know that we at MachMetrics use WPT as our engine as well. So obviously we were very keen to find out exactly what would be changing with this sale!
Now, this is relatively recent news, so there is still a certain amount of unknown in this. We did our best to reach out to those in the industry, and found some good releases from both Catchpoint and WebPageTest. Let’s answer a few of the questions you may have about this change.
Who is Catchpoint?
Let’s start with the most obvious question.
Founded in 2008, Catchpoint states that its mission is to “help companies advance the digital experience of their customers and employees”. They offer a suite of products such as synthetic monitoring, real user monitoring, endpoint monitoring, and network insights.
In short, this is a company that shares a lot of the same values that WebPageTest was built on. In terms of buyers, this was probably a best-case scenario. It allows WebPageTest to be improved and properly utilized by owners who are already involved in the webperf community.
Patrick Meenan, the founder of WebPageTest, speaks very highly of Catchpoint in his article, adding that they share his passion and obsession with web performance. Catchpoint has built a network of more than 800 test locations for their own platform, so it will be great to see that utilized for WPT.
What does this mean for WebPageTest?
With millions of consistent users, there was some concern within the industry that webpagetest.org might now become a paid service, or that it would no longer be open source. As Catchpoint is in the same industry, some were even worried that this purchase might just be to remove some competition.
WebPageTest is also unique in that it is an open-source engine that allows countless webperf engineers to run their own instances. This had the potential to disrupt many developers who had built platforms and automatic testing instances with WPT.
Thankfully, Catchpoint seems perfectly happy to leave WebPageTest the way it is, focusing on improving the product.
From the initial Press Release:
Not only will Webpagetest.org continue to be offered as a free service to the community, but under Catchpoint, the service will be greatly enhanced. The web performance community will continue to utilize Webpagetest.org for free, with dramatically improved consistency, capacity and quality of test results.Source: Catchpoint
This is great news!
Will WebPageTest remain open source?
While this wasn’t part of the press release, the expectation is that WebPageTest will remain open source and available for private instances. Patrick commented in a forum post stating that “the server and agent will remain available and updated.”
However, there have been some updates to the WPT license. The main development branch will continue to be in the open and free for anyone to use except for the narrow case of offering a service externally that competes with an existing Catchpoint service. For those that are offering services built on top of WebPageTest that do compete with Catchpoint offerings, there is an “apache” branch with the previous license. PR’s will continue to be accepted on either branch but most future feature development (new browsers, etc) will be done under the new license. This means that there are now 2 branches of WPT, one maintained by Catchpoint and Pat Meenan, and another maintained only by the public.
So What Will Change?
Many are surprised to learn that the main server infrastructure for WPT has been run from Patrick’s basement since inception. He has also somehow found time to keep the engine running primarily in his spare time.
Perhaps the best thing about this move is that WPT now gets to take advantage of the vast network and infrastructure that Catchpoint utilizes. Patrick also gets to give his full attention to his amazing creation. Catchpoint has brought him along to serve as Engineering Fellow, continuing his work on WPT.
Patrick indicated on Twitter that some of these improvements are already being added. New locations have already been added to the testing options.
Huge thanks to the @catchpoint ops team for ramping up on the WebPageTest agent so quickly. There are already a few new really interesting locations available (Bangkok, Jakarta, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bahrain, Cape Town, Melbourne and more).— Patrick Meenan (@patmeenan) September 24, 2020
It would appear for now that the only thing users will notice right away is an improved service with more testing locations.
Of course, this is all fairly recent news. We’ll continue to monitor any news and update this article if we hear anything new. You can also follow us on Twitter to find out about any changes even faster!
So what are your thoughts? Do you think this is good or bad for WebPageTest? How about for the webperf industry as a whole?
Let us know below! We always love to hear from the community itself about any news like this.
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