Page speed is everything

One day last March, I thumbed in a search on my iPhone, and Google delivered something unexpected.

Atop the results page sat a neat row of thumbnails, each adorned with a mini lightning bolt logo beside a three-letter-stamp that read “AMP”. Ever since, Google has positioned AMP links above all other results on its hottest searches.

Search “Clinton”, “Trump” or “NFL” on your phone and AMP is what you will find.

Nobody’s blinked. But then again, if you add lightning bolt plus Google, that’s exactly the result you’d expect: not to blink.

When you click on an AMP thumbnail, a new page loads instantly. It’s easy to mistake it for a trending Tweet or simply a popular Google image.

But AMPs — an acronym for Accelerated Mobile Pages — are normal web pages in HTML, the language developed by Tim Berners-Lee to display the world’s first web page; and they differ from other web pages in only two minor ways: 
They include no JavaScript. 
They conform to Google-enfored style & layout standards.

The absence of the JavaScript, a word most have encountered on their smartphones or web browser, is enormously important for one reason: it is the programming language used to create all Internet ads.

Why did the world’s most popular website — and third largest corporation — decide to replace advertisements with AMP? More enticing, how did Google calculate that ads — which represent some 96% of the company’s annual revenue — should be swapped for web pages that load really really fast?

There’s a widely-_ statistic that some 80% of people will abandon a link that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

That number is misleading; 3 seconds is far too slow.

While working at Google in the early 2000s, Marissa Mayer asked a sample of Google visitors if they’d rather see 10 or 30 results per page. The sample responded unanimously that 30 sounded better.

Mayer ran tests to find if this preference would hold up across a large sample of visitors. The results were groundbreaking: compared with Google visitors who received 10 results per page, the visitors who were delivered 30 per page — pages which took just 0.5 seconds longer to load — abandoned their searches 20% more frequently.

Why do slow load times drive us mad?

At a fundamental level, page speed _ fundamental characteristic of successful products: any product or service that diminishes the amount of time needed to accomplish a desired action will enjoy widespread adoption by its users.

Page speed, in many ways, is the final frontier of the Internet. One frequently-cited psychology study, performed at the University of Maryland in the early 2000s, identified a dozen areas of computer and internet-related pain points. The list includes archaic frustrations like the “Windows blue screen of death”, “hardware installation incompatibilities” and “dropped connections”. But the two most frequent complaints were “pop-up ads” and “long download times” (to clarify the meaning of download, the authors recommended that “long download times can be improved by having web designers write web pages that are smaller and have fewer graphics”).