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.
FYI @CityLab article pages load faster than @nytimes AMP pages. Just to show you do not need AMP to have fast loading pages #webperf pic.twitter.com/34YboEBwLP
— Michael Donohoe (@donohoe) February 23, 2018
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:
- 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.
- 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.
Before I say anything I’d like to stress out, that the following post does not represent my beliefs when it comes to AMP. I am not trying to protect or condemn it.
Having that out of the way let me say this: No matter how loudly the developers will scream at Google, or how much controversy will AMP rise, I think it won’t do much against whatever Google wants to do with AMP. The main reason behind this thought is that we (aka developers) are not consumers of the internet. Regular users are. And for them AMP is a blessing – pages under AMP are super-fast (finally), and AMP-mail will not only do that, but it will also give them better e-mail content.
Oh, and there is one another reason – this is Google we are talking about. You know, that company that figuratively holds the Internet (including emails).
I’m the author of that performance article. I just wanted to comment that part of the conclusion of the article is somewhat lost in your writing. You claim another source saying you can make a page that is faster than AMP, and that you therefore not need it.
Technically speaking, when measuring both pages from their origin, this is true. Practically speaking, it is false. AMP is almost always used in combination with the AMP cache served from Google search. It would be completely pointless to use AMP without cache. Google search gives AMP exclusive preloading benefits. This means that you CANNOT make a page that is faster than AMP. AMP will have seconds of head start in performance over any other non-AMP page.
Just wanted to make sure that message got delivered, as that is where I believe the AMP advantage is unfair. It’s not possible to compete with its performance when served from cache and with preloading.
Thus, when you create your awesome non-AMP that is fast, you will lose in performance as well as in search ranking (ranking impact is currently minor, from what I read) from AMP. Any time and every time. How much of choice is that, especially for organizations desperate to improve metrics?
Finally, I do not subscribe to the idea that Google can do what it wants. Not only morally, also legally there’s checks and balances to ensure fair play in the market. Note that they have several investigations of market power abuse against them currently.
For clarity, the above statement is only true for users coming from Google search results (which is a significant number for most people).
Which only works, as the commenter before already pointed out, when coming DIRECTLY from a Google Search.. There is a feature called “bookmarks” though, and then the other called “remembering the domain name of a website”, that is forcefully overriding this advantage. Also I guess it wont work out if you come from a DuckDuckGo search result.
Thanks for explaining what a bookmark is, and that this only works for Google search, as illustrated in the article.
I guess that takes away all concerns, since its “only” Google search, a mere 40-50% of all website traffic worldwide.
I sense the sarcasm here :)
For a lot of sites (my own and I’m sure this site as well) Google has an even stronger referral rate than 40-50% which makes it an even bigger deal and something you should certainly consider.
I just can shake this feeling that we’re taking a short term win which will turn into a much longer term negative impact on the web. There is a quote from Jason’s article about AMP in email that Chris mentions above which underlines my technical issue with the approach:
(btw Ferdy, I think we’re on the same page of disagreeing with the AMP approach, apologies if I was over explaining in my initial comment)
Thanks for the round up, Chris!
I’m very concerned about AMP & web standards, and attempted to put questions directly to the AMP team here:
“Transparency and the AMP Project”.
“Conflicts of interest and the AMP Project” (but this one didn’t go over so well!)
The AMP Tech Lead eventually responded to my first post, and said (in part):
The disturbing thing is we only ever get part of the story from Google staff. No clear idea of who really calls the shots; no insight into the politics behind the scenes; and very often no acknowledgement of the glaring conflicts of interest in what they’re doing. It’s a shame.
What shocking arrogance on those threads. Almost zero questions answered. “Our project, our rules”. Closing an issue because “it is being linked to from the web”. Pointing to a code of conduct for simply asking a question.
Thanks for trying, Luke. If there was a benefit of the doubt as for AMP’s shady agenda, I consider it hereby removed from all doubt.
AMP is based on Web platform and is using some latest standards like custom elements, service worker, etc… This way AMP project is promoting better future for all developers and users investing in standards and open source.
I don’t think Google using some unfair tactics in ranking results. Because it would be a huge legal and reputation loss. Anyway it is concerning to me too.
Meanwhile there is another controversial topic related to this one. Webkit team may be opposing some progressive web standards and may be slowing down progress in that area. It is especially sensitive topic around Web components. See more here https://www.chromestatus.com/feature/4670146924773376 and https://webkit.org/status/#feature-html-imports. Slowing down web platform progress might give an advantage for native apps and specifically in iOS environment.
Isn’t AMP a Google pushed technology? With everyone investing their time heavily into AMP what happens if Google just drops it one day? Like they did with various other of their projects?