‘Fast is better than slow’ is a cornerstone of Google’s philosophy. Here, search guru and SVP of Infrastructure Urs Hoelzle, explains why.



Pick a query, any query. ‘Weather, New York City.’ ‘Nineteenth-century Russian literature.’ ‘When is the 2012 Super Bowl?’ Now type it into a Google search box. As you type, we predict the rest of your query, comb through billions of web pages, rank the sites, images, videos, and products we find, and present you with the very best results. The entire process takes, in many cases, less than a tenth of a second – it’s practically instant.

If it isn’t, we’ll suffer. Our research shows that if search results are slowed by even a fraction of a second, people search less (seriously: A 400ms delay leads to a 0.44 percent drop in search volume, data fans). And this impatience isn’t just limited to search: Four out of five internet users will click away if a video stalls while loading. But even though the human attention span has become remarkably fickle, much of the web remains slow. The average web page takes 4.9 seconds to load – in a world where fractions of a second count, that’s an eternity.