Understanding Networks: Traceroute

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understanding_networks graph network internet

Ping is a network utility tool for testing to see if a server is responsive.

Traceroute is a utility that builds on this idea and pings in a sequence to discover the route a network request takes.


There are many different possible routes to a web application such as YouTube or Amazon, but it’s also true of static websites like this blog.

The request goes through,

  1. a local network, through which you connect to the internet
  2. the internet, a network of networks where requests and responses are forwarded
  3. the application servers, eg the many servers on which a large-scale web application runs on

Above, you can see the network of nodes that I traversed while reaching YouTube, Amazon, LinkedIn, and my own blog via my home network, the NYU network, and my cellphone connected to Verizon wireless.


Looking at the routes individually, I found two features interesting.

  • 1. Amazon uses a much deeper architecture
    • Connecting to Amazon requires traversing many more nodes than any other application. The additional nodes all seem low latency.
  • 2. Verizon Wireless routing is shorter, but higher latency
    • No matter the application, Verizon serves the connecting in only a handful of steps.
    • All applications look like they’re being served in the same manner.


  • Large important networks can bypass much of the internet
  • Organizations can architect their applications very differently depending on the resources they have available