Google is obsessed with speed. A tremendous amount of corporate energy is being put into initiatives to speed up the web. Google’s Let’s make the web faster web page asks the question “What would be possible if browsing the web was as fast as turning the pages of a magazine?”. This clues us in to their goal – instant response.
To see Google engineers talk about this, check out the 3 1/2 minute video on this page. You can also check out the video on this page which includes the statement that 100 milliseconds is a recognized threshold for users to notice some sluggishness. You can also see more on Google’s thoughts on performance in this Jake Brutlag post titled: Speed Matters. The testing discussed in this post showed that small increases in load time of search results pages, less than 1/2 second, resulted in a decline in searches performed of 0.2% to 0.6%.
Google seems fully prepared to take on the task of rebuilding the Internet if need be, and they are challenging some of the most basic protocols on which the web was built. They have an initiative in place to re-design the HTTP: protocol. Their proposed protocol, known as SPDY: is designed for today’s web environment, which HTTP was not. Testing they have done on SPDY shows a 50% uplift in performance – not bad.
Google has also launched its own Public DNS. The DNS infrastructure plays a critical role in the web, that of converting human friendly web addresses, such as www.stonetemple.com, to machine friendly IP addresses, such as 188.8.131.52. Today’s web pages often involve multiple DNS lookups to load. Speeding up these transactions can only improve overall performance.
Google is providing some interesting tools for publishers as well. In December 2009 they announced Speed Tracer, a tool for monitoring page load time performance. One key component of the tool is that it allows you to graphically locate trouble spots and then drill down to see what the source of the problem is. In addition, Google Webmaster Tools allows you to get a close up look at your site’s performance:
The tool will also let you drill down and get specific suggestions from Google on how to improve site performance:
Last, but not least, at Pubcon 2009 in Las Vegas, Matt Cutts stated quite clearly that Site Speed would become a ranking factor. Of course, that does not necessarily mean it actually will be done, but when you look at the overall commitment that Google has to web performance, you can count on it. So when should you begin working on your site performance? I’d say now. Turn site speed into advantage for your business!