Surfing the Internet in China slower on Sundays

Browsing websites is often a slow and frustrating experience in China. Apart from blocking over 2600 websites and searches, the Great Firewall also imposes a serious bottleneck on speed. There have been rumors that the Internet is especially slow on Sundays. Analyzing more than 80,000 tests executed by our system from March to November this year, our data seems to confirm this suspicion.

The tests consist of downloading the front page of each of the world's 500 most popular websites, as defined by Alexa. Apart from aberrations in March and June, download speeds on Sundays have consistently been between 8 and 25% slower than the average of the other days of the week. Here's the full test data summary (all speeds in bytes/second):

MonthMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySundaySunday relative to other daysNumber of tests
Mar, 201122,89823,00726,17825,56025,35623,96827,35312%11,032
Apr, 201130,36533,64029,14133,20632,96929,68927,953-11%17,775
May, 201132,69128,67636,20130,09229,45529,13025,814-17%5,889
Jun, 201121,66332,22730,50729,73628,43428,37728,8121%5,946
Jul, 201117,71928,35224,86820,98721,95522,25017,089-25%7,621
Aug, 201122,46021,47221,51620,85923,23520,24119,980-8%12,499
Sep, 201124,48522,97821,82422,17222,34519,04517,906-19%12,671
Oct, 201125,36921,41423,17222,82722,89222,57218,473-20%14,213
Nov, 201127,00024,04428,63825,64024,91025,80923,984-8%9,233

One theory why the internet would be even more restricted on Sundays is that this was the weekday chosen for the attempted Jasmine protests earlier this year. Another theory could point to Sunday being a prime day for internet users across the country to download music and movie files or to consume online media, which would explain why Saturday is the second slowest day of the week. Also, the authorities might prioritize speed on weekdays in order to allow companies somewhat better Internet access.

It is also important to note that the internet has been getting slower compared to speeds earlier this year.

Have you also experienced the slow Sunday phenomenon? Please add your comments below.


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Tue, Jul 05, 2016 now testing VPN speed and stability in China

There is a commonly held belief in China that if you have a VPN that works then you should keep quiet about it. In terms of freedom of access to information, the problem with this approach is that access to knowledge suddenly is a secret. Today we are launching a project that we hope will destroy that model.

Our newest website, Circumvention Central (CC), aims to provide real-time information and data about circumvention solutions that work in China. Since 2011, we have been collecting data about blocked websites in China and now we will add data about the effectiveness of VPNs and other circumvention tools.

We are launching CC with four main objectives in mind.

Our first objective is to help to grow the number of Chinese who circumvent censorship restrictions in China. By sharing our information and data about these tools, we hope to show a wider audience which circumvention tools are working.

Our second objective is to improve the circumvention experience for users in China by bringing transparency to tool performance. We will measure these tools on speed (how quickly popular websites are loaded) and on stability (the extent to which popular websites load successfully).

Sat, May 07, 2016

The New York Times vs. The Chinese Authorities

Could the New York Times be setting the best path forward for news organizations in China?

Thu, Feb 18, 2016

From the desk of Lu Wei: Apple, encryption and China

Lu Wei, Director of the Cyberspace Administration of China, offers some friendly help to FBI Director James Comey.

Thu, Sep 24, 2015

Apple blocked CNNIC CA months after MITM attacks

In March of this year, Google found unauthorized digital certificates for several Google domains. The root certificate authority for these domains was the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). CNNIC was controlled by the Chinese government through the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and is now under the management of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). CNNIC was recognized by all major browsers as a trusted Certificate Authority. If CNNIC signs a fake certificate used in a man-in-the-middle attack, no browser will warn of any unusual activity unless the certificate is pinned.

After Google found these unauthorized certificates, both Google and Firefox revoked its trust in CNNIC a few days later, a development we at have adovacting for since 2013. Apple and Microsoft on the other hand, did not revoke their trust in CNNIC, nor did they make any announcements regarding the security compromise.

Wed, Sep 23, 2015

Malicious Xcode could spread via download manager Xunlei

What’s at stake?

We reported last week that popular Chinese iOS apps were compromised in an unprecedented malware attack. We discovered that the source of the infection was compromised copies of Xcode hosted on Baidu Pan. Apple has published an article urging developers to download Xcode directly from the Mac App Store, or from the Apple Developer website and validate signatures. We’ve now discovered that even if a developer uses a download link seemingly from Apple, he might still be possible to obtain a compromised copy of Xcode.

Please note that we do not have evidence that such attacks has happened. But it is an easy attack that anyone can implement.

How does it work?

This compromise happened because of Xunlei. Xunlei is the most popular download manager in China. Much of its popularity is due to the fact they can accelerate download speeds by pulling resources from other Xunlei users as well as cached copies on the Xunlei server. All of this, however, is invisible to users. Users can simply enter a regular http download address into Xunlei  download manager and the download will start. Chinese developers were using direct download addresses such as to download Xcode.

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I'm wondering whether you have any data on whether it has become slower to access Chinese websites from outside of China over the past year or so. I live outside of China and it has become painfully slow for me to stream videos from Chinese video-sharing sites like Tudou and Youku. Even sites like Baidu Baike and Baidu Tieba, which are mostly text with images, have become somewhat laggy. I've been wondering whether the problem lies on my end (e.g. with my ISP) or if it's part of a wider pattern.

Hi Blaise. The GFW works both ways. Accessing Chinese websites from abroad is artificially slow, just as accessing foreign websites from China is. Exactly how much slower I can't say. But we do have the data, since all URLs tested by our system are tested both from China and from the US. So it's just a matter of collecting it and creating a graph. On the to-do list. Great question!

Thanks for the reply! That's interesting to hear.

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