Facing threats from Apple and Facebook, Google is teaming up with web publishers to cut down page load times on smartphones.
“Accelerated Mobile Pages,” or AMP, is an open framework for building lightweight webpages, optimized for mobile devices. The move is a direct answer to rival initiatives such as Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles, both of which offer fast-loading articles by cutting out cruft.
The main difference with those efforts is that publishers must optimize their stories for each respective platform, causing fragmentation and creating more work. In the case of AMP, publishers still get to host the content themselves, publish through existing content management systems such as WordPress, serve their own ads, and handle their own subscriptions. Google is just offering a set of tools to make the content load faster.
AMP is also a response to the rise of ad blockers, especially on iOS where Apple recently started allowing ad-blocking in Safari. It’s no secret that unblocked pages demand significantly more bandwidth and take much longer to load; Google’s hope is that fewer people will install ad blockers if pages load quickly and run smoothly, and says it will allow ad formats “that don’t detract from the user experience.”
The faster pages will appear when accessed through the open web, for instance through Google searches or links. Google is also partnering with tech companies such as Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, so perhaps we’ll eventually see AMP pages when opening links in their respective apps. The program is just in a preview phase for now, with BuzzFeed, Vox, and the Washington Post among the initial partners. You can check out the faster pages by visiting g.co/ampdemo on a mobile device.
Why this matters: There’s been a lot of talk recently about the death of the open web at the behest of Apple and Facebook, whose new publishing platforms promise a much faster experience compared to traditional webpages. This is a major concern for Google, whose business still revolves around serving ads on webpages and in search results. It’s also an issue for publishers, especially smaller ones that lack the resources to optimize for numerous closed platforms. But if anything, AMP shows that this competition is a good thing, as it has prompted Google to do something about sluggish, overloaded webpages.