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Marissa Mayer, Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) vice president for search products and user experience, has a secret. Or she did, until her brief presentation this afternoon at the Web 2.0 Summit today in San Francisco.

Her secret: on the Web, speed matters.

Mayer described an interesting experiment Google performed a few years ago. The idea was to figure out the ideal number of results to display in response to a search query. When Google asked users if they wanted 10, 20 or 30 results on the first page, the winner was 30. More is better, was the apparent thinking. But consumer behavior told a different story: the more responses Google displayed, the fewer searches each user performed. It was, she said, an indication of “extreme unhappiness.” But it was the opposite of what people said they wanted.

The question was why that was happening? In essense, Google figured out that the answer was speed: it simplying took a lot longer - too long - to display the screen with more results.

Mayer said she looked for an uncontrolled variable - and it turned out to be speed. Load times increased from 0.4 seconds for 10 results, to 0.9 seconds for 30 results. Google’s approach, she said, “is to make it up in volume.” There is less time per transaction, but you can “generate more area under the curve over time” with “lots of small and fast interactions.”

Mayer says the need for speed will lead to some “key changes coming,” including richer support for Javascript in particular and client side applications in general. She also noted that mobile access speeds are “fundamentally too slow,” and predicted that there will be “real advances in mobile hardware.”

“Speed,” she concludes “is a critical and key component for Web 2.0″

Source: Google's Marissa Mayer: Speed Matters