Optimizing the disk after an update or install: what is that about?

I just installed some updates on my Mac. The updating process was really quick, but then it had to optimize the disk. I wonder what that's about and why it is so slow. It takes five times longer to optimize than to download and install...
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Mac OS X makes extensive use of shared libraries and frameworks.
The "Optimizing" relinks [prebinds?] applications against the newer
versions of the shared libraries to accelerate application launch time.

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