14 Sep 2010
Last spring, Steve Souders wrote this great post explaining why web performance optimization (WPO) is poised to become the next SEO. In it, he cited top tech venture capitalist Fred Wilson, principal of Union Square Ventures. In this speech at the Future of Web Apps conference, Fred said:
First and foremost, we believe that speed is more than a feature. Speed is the most important feature. If your application is slow, people won’t use it. I see this more with mainstream users than I do with power users. I think that power users sometimes have a bit of sympathetic eye to the challenges of building really fast web apps, and maybe they’re willing to live with it, but when I look at my wife and kids, they’re my mainstream view of the world. If something is slow, they’re just gone.
We think that the application has to be fast, and if it’s not, you can see what happens. We have every single one of our portfolio company services on Pingdom, and we take a look at that every week. When we see some of our portfolio company’s applications getting bogged down, we also note that they don’t grow as quickly. There is real empirical evidence that substantiates the fact that speed is more than a feature. It’s a requirement.
You heard it. Speed is #1. Those are fighting words. I like fighting words. I took them as a challenge to see how fast Union Square Ventures’ portfolio actually performs. I picked five of the most easily recognized names in their portfolio and ran some performance tests:*
|Website||Page load time (U.S.)||Page load time (international)|
Turns out, Union Square walks the walk. Their average domestic load time was about 4.5 seconds, considerably faster than the Fortune 500 benchmark of around 7 seconds. And their average international page load time came in at just over 8.5 seconds, somewhat speedier than the Fortune 500 benchmark of approximately 9.5 seconds.
After running these tests, I considered testing other leading tech VCs to see how they all compared, but after running just a handful of tests of their portfolio apps, realized that all of them were going to come in at around the same averages. My purpose today isn’t to start a “whose apps are fastest” debate. Instead, I want to highlight the fact that speed is, in fact, a real priority, one that business leaders are taking seriously. If you want your site or app to even be considered for funding, you’d better make sure it’s fast.
I would also argue that it isn’t just enough to aim for the benchmark. Your mantra should be: There’s no such thing as fast enough. Note Fred’s observation:
When we see some of our portfolio company’s applications getting bogged down, we also note that they don’t grow as quickly. There is real empirical evidence that substantiates the fact that speed is more than a feature. It’s a requirement.
As an aside, if you don’t already read Fred’s blog, you should consider adding it to your feed. Some excellent posts there.
*All tests done using Webpagetest. IE7 on a DSL line via Dulles, VA, and Sydney, Australia.