Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages

Frédéric Filloux:

It didn’t take long for Google to fire back at Facebook’s Instant Articles. While the two company strategies differ, they both impact the future of news content distribution on mobile platforms.

Five months: that’s all it took for Google to respond to Facebook’s mobile offensive. In Mountain View, where the response has been brewing, the product is called AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages. Not a super sexy name, but it could have been worse: the project was initially called PCU for Portable Content.


How did Google achieve such loading speed improvements? Again, in plain English: “amp-html” strips off most of the conventional web page payload and only keeps the HTML code directly involved in content rendering: text, images, videos gifs, basic ad formats and a few strictly mandatory trackers. Everything else —javascripts, iframes, embeds, large chunks of the CSS etc.— known to slow down page downloads is shuttled to a separate “container”. As for ads, they load separately, usually one second after the editorial content. No more waiting for a promotional video to start playing.

To speed up access, the other trick is a massive caching process that looks like this[…]

Update (2015-10-14): Felix Salmon:

AMP is based on an important insight: that almost all of that evil advertising technology is written in JavaScript. If you create a new standard for mobile pages which essentially strips out all JavaScript, or at least banishes it to the bottom of the priority stack, then suddenly people will be able to read the web pages they want to read on their phones, on the go, without waiting first to be identified and tracked and sold off to the highest bidder.


Ultimately it all comes down to power dynamics. Advertisers and media buyers have more power than any individual publisher: they can demand more intrusive ads, more trackers, more scripts, and the publishers will simply comply, lest they lose precious revenue. We’re all living the painful results of that dynamic. But there’s one entity even more powerful than the advertising industry, and that’s Google. If Google tells everybody to turn those off those scripts, then those scripts will be turned off—and advertisers will be forced to compete on the basis of creative output, rather than technological firepower.

Update (2015-12-16): Todd Hoff:

AMP is two things. AMP is a restricted subset of HTML designed to make the web fast on mobile devices. AMP is also a strategy to counter an existential threat to Google: the mobile web is in trouble and if the mobile web is in trouble then Google is in trouble.


Will Google advantage AMP in search results? Not directly says Google, but since faster sites rank better, AMP will implicitly rank higher compared to heavier weight content. We may have a two tiered web: the fast AMP based web and the slow bloated traditional web. Non AMP pages can still be made fast of course, but all of human history argues against it.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter

It would be nice if this AMP can be used on the desktops too -- suffering from the bloat in these lands is just as severe as on mobile.

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