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Google AMP Is Going to Speed Up the Web. Is This Good?

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Very important launch today of Google's AMP. Basically this means that Google is taking over "fulfillment" from the news industry because they have proven they can't handle the technical requirements.

Wow was this under reported. 

Between Google AMP and Google Fiber, Google really is taking over the Internet. 

Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles, and Apple News all seek to speed up the web.

Facebook, by far the most powerful of the new platforms, has invited major publishers to participate in its “Instant Articles” system, where news organizations literally publish inside of Facebook instead of or in addition to their own sites. Hundreds are now participating, and in April Facebook will invite everyone to join (while remaining free, someday, to change its mind and/or the terms of its revenue deals). Likewise, Apple is pushing its Apple News system. Although both are using web technologies to create their news products, they’re still Hoovering the open web into the maw of proprietary platforms — an incredibly dangerous trend from my perspective.

Now enter AMP. The concepts behind it, including making articles and other content more portable, weren’t new, but they jelled on May 16, 2015, at a “Newsgeist” — a gathering of journalists and technologists sponsored by Google and the Knight Foundation — in Helsinki. Facebook had recently launched Instant Articles, and part of the conversation focused on whether there “might be another way” for publishers to stay more in control of how their content made its way to audiences while maintaining their business models, recalls Richard Gingras, head of news at Google. He and David Besbris, vice president of engineering for Google Search, have driven the project inside the company.

After Helsinki, they moved fast, gathering partners and launching the open-source project. And on Oct. 7, 2015, AMP was announced to the world. Jeff Jarvis, professor, writer, new media advocate, and key participant in the Newsgeist conversation that sparked the project, was (and remains) ecstatic at what emerged. “A link is no longer an invitation to wait,” he celebrated. “A link is just a next page, instantly and fully visible.” (Note: Jeff is a longtime friend. I’ve also known Richard Gingras for many years and serve with him on the board of the nonprofit First Amendment Coalition.)

Google’s surveillance-dependent business model should give us all pause, but it does have a stake in maintaining an open web, or at least a web open enough for its own, search-advertising business to continue to thrive. To the extent that the competition can capture the advertising that flows into its version of the Internet, the demise of an open web is a clear and present danger to Google.

That’s essential context for AMP. The project, on one level, can be seen as a laudable, if imperfect, attempt to speed things up while retaining much of what makes an open web workable — but we can also recognize it as a strategic move to counter Facebook’s (and Apple’s) businesses. The question is — what does it mean for us?

There are three parts to Google AMP:

  2. AMP JS
  3. AMP Cache

AMP HTML has a strictly defined set of pre-processing tags. Those are mainly limited to text formatting and image embedding tags such as amp-adamp-embedamp-imgamp-pixel, and amp-video.

AMP JS is a severely limited Javascript file. It loads all external resources in an asynchronous (in the background) way. This keeps “render blocking” from interfering with how quickly what the user came to see renders on the screen. Everything extraneous to the actual words and images in the article loads last. AMP JS also grabs and pre-renders the content by predicting which DNS resources and connections will be needed, then by downloading and pre-sizing images. This is all done to alleviate work for the mobile device to economize data use.

AMP Cache, or the AMP Content Delivery Network (AMP CDN), is Google’s system of servers doing the heavy lifting of grabbing your most recent content and pre-positioning it around the globe. This ensures that a page requested from, say, Italy doesn’t need to be sent over the wire from Mountain View, California each time it’s requested. Instead, Google places a pre-rendered, optimized copy of that AMP page on a server close to or in Italy. The CDN is refreshed each time an article is updated or added.


Google AMP now is available for 150 million pages from 650k domains:

Google AMP now adding 4 million pages a week from 215 partners. 

Facebook Instant Articles has over 1000 partners:

Google AMP now adding ecommerce partners like 1-800-FLOWERS and Fandango. 

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