tedster - 8:17 pm on Apr 11, 2010 (gmt 0)
I see things differently, tangor. If that were 100% true, then Google would be using googlebot crawl data rather than toolbar data. So I don't think this is some kind of mythology being fudded at us just to improve crawl times for googlebot. Many of the speed factors being promoted don't even affect googlebot one bit, because it doesn't render the page - it just takes the code itself and sends it back to Google's "universal cache".
My feeling, in this case, is what we see is pretty much what we get. Google has hitched their vision for the web's future to their considerable power to "persuade."
So I do think it's about happy users - and especially happy users of Google. I don't think Google cares quite as much whether our own users are happy with our particular site or not - that has always been our job. But if the top search results also load fast, then the average user will like their Google experience more.
Ever since the demise of the Bandwidth Preservation Society (anyone else remember those 5kb contests?) more and more site developers are forgetting about the end user experience. Why should any page take ten or fifteen seconds to load over broadband connection speeds? That's web developer/designer arrogance, or possibly (being very kind) ignorance.
So this is now what we live with -- and also ignore at our own peril. Side speed, measured on the user side, is a new ranking factor, and it's folded in with something like 200 other factors. I'm happy about it, because I can use this to push certain reluctant clients into improving their site performance - which will improve things for THEIR users and THEIR bottom line.
Remember this? Last year Google tested their own property and found a remarkable increase in user satisfaction from only a fraction of a second speed improvement. Yahoo also went through many of their properties recently and re-did the coding mess -- with solid results.
Speed really does matter and it always did.