AMP News

AMP is controversial, to say the least. Dave and I did a show on it about a year ago that to me felt fairly balanced in addressing some of the issues. Let’s cover some recent news and responses.

One thing that isn’t usually controversial: it’s fast. AMP pages are damn performant. Even that, though, is contentious. Ferdy Christant notes:

Technically correct AMP pages will perform very similar to any non-horrible web page.

The difference between AMP performing instantly and getting numbers ranging from 2–8s as seen above have to be explained.

Part of that answer you can probably guess: the cache is simply very fast. It’s hard to compete with a Google-class CDN.

You don’t need AMP to have a fast website.

The most controversial bit is that carrot offered for using AMP: the search results news carousel. The carousel is extremely prominent in Google search results, and AMP is a one-way ticket to get in. You could make a site faster than AMP, but that doesn’t meet the criteria for entry. Tim Kadlec:

there has been no indication of any attempt to address the first issue, that of incentivization and premium placement. In fact, not only has there been no attempt to fix it, it appears the AMP team is doubling-down on those incentives instead.

Doubling-down, as in, AMP stories will be released soon and will also enjoy premium placement on Google. Every indication is that the primary desire of people reaching for AMP is the preferential search results treatment. Gina Trapani:

In my experience people are motivated to use AMP… I’ve seen this from our clients…mostly because of SEO. They want it in that top stories carousel, they want that lightning bolt of approval in regular search results which is happening now.

Of course, Google can do whatever they want. They are an independent company and if they wanna tell us that we have to use a special format to have benefits on their platform, then that’s the way it is. It doesn’t mean we have to be happy about it. Hundreds of people have signed the AMP letter, which calls for two changes:

  1. Instead of granting premium placement in search results only to AMP, provide the same perks to all pages that meet an objective, neutral performance criterion such as Speed Index. Publishers can then use any technical solution of their choice.
  2. Do not display third-party content within a Google page unless it is clear to the user that they are looking at a Google product. It is perfectly acceptable for Google to launch a “news reader” but it is not acceptable to display a page that carries only third-party branding on what is actually a Google URL, nor to require that third party to use Google’s hosting in order to appear in search results.

Ethan Marcotte is concerned:

absent action from some sort of regulatory body, I’m not sure what influence you or I could exert to change the trajectory of AMP

…but thinks we could perhaps collectively have influence. Jeremy Keith has called some of the messaging behind AMP an outright lie:

I don’t think the developers working on the AMP format are intentionally deceptive (although they are engaging in some impressive cognitive gymnastics). The AMP ecosystem, on the other hand, that’s another story—the preferential treatment of Google-hosted AMP pages in the carousel and in search results; that’s messed up.

Jeremy also notes that the power Google is exerting here is worrisome. Part of the stated motivation is trying to fix the web. Taking a stand, as it were.

I remember feeling very heartened to see WikiPedia, Google and others take a stand on January 18th, 2012 (against SOPA and PIPA). But I also remember feeling uneasy. In this particular case, companies were lobbying for a cause I agreed with. But what if they were lobbying for a cause I didn’t agree with? Large corporations using their power to influence politics seems like a very bad idea. Isn’t it still a bad idea, even if I happen to agree with the cause?

Cloudflare quite rightly kicked The Daily Stormer off their roster of customers. Then the CEO of Cloudflare quite rightly wrote this in a company-wide memo:

Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.

There’s an uncomfortable tension here.

AMP is also expanding to other technology, notably email. Well, Gmail, that is. Fast, well-rendering, interactive emails seem like a hugely positive thing. Perhaps predictably at this point, people in that industry have similar concerns. Jason Rodriguez:

I’m an email guy. I’ve written three books on email, spoken at a bunch of conferences on the topic, and help build tools for other email folks at my day job. I love seeing the email platform grow and evolve. I love seeing people working on interesting ideas that make email more valuable for the subscribers that receive them.

So, you’d think I’d be thrilled by Google’s announcement about adding dynamic content and interactivity to Gmail with AMP for Email. You’d be wrong.

Jason’s primary concern being that instead of improving support for what we already have, they’ve invented a new format and called it open-sourced, but have full control over it. However, with far more blockers in the way (e.g. ESPs not supporting the new MIME type) and less carrots to offer, it seems like a long shot it will happen.

I know I’ve covered a lot of negative news here, but that’s mostly what I’ve been seeing. Strangely enough, I feel more interested in watching how this all shakes out than I am motivated to weigh in on either side.

AMP News is a post from CSS-Tricks