Google Operating System reports Google is testing showing the number of words on a web page for some types of queries.
Here is a screen shot of the word count showing near the search result snippet in Google.
For as long as SEO has been around, SEOs have been talking about word counts and keyword density. Something like this might spike the conversation in the SEO world.
Tedster in a WebmasterWorld thread said:
The idea that Google spends resource recording things like word count - or even more, reading level - intrigues me. I appreciate that this might just be research for now, rather than being used in the ranking algorithm. But it doesn't stretch the imagination too far to foresee matching those factors with Google's "intention engine" data.
As a rough example, a transactional intention might depress pages with very long copy - but an informational or scholarly intention might lean toward longer and higher reading level content.
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.