Google Will Direct Mobile Users To AMP Pages On Compatible Sites

Accelerated Mobile PagesThe advent of the web was a mixed blessing for publishers. On the one hand, the web gives publishers access to a larger audience than they could have dreamed of a couple of decades ago. On the other hand, the deluge of content and the expectation that content will be free has practically destroyed the economy on which publishers rely. The result: publishers desperately searching for revenue opportunities and throwing every potential money-making strategy at consumers who are becoming increasingly tired of the bloated slow-to-load pages they’re expected to pay to download.

Those consumers are fighting back with ad-blockers, which further decimates the earnings of publishers. Facebook, Apple, and Google have recognized that damage this is doing to the online economy and hence to their business, and they’re leveraging their power to give publishers tools to make content less user hostile. Apple has Apple News. Facebook has Instant Articles. And Google has Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP.

AMP, which was officially released at the end of last month, takes a different approach to Facebook and Apple. Instead of trying to bring content within a closed ecosystem, Google and its partners are creating a parallel web with a forked version of HTML that forces publishers to make reasonable choices about the content they send to mobile users. No excessive CSS. No third-party JavaScript at all except for AMP itself. Optimized loading for improved performance. An advertising system that puts content ahead of ads. A global caching system.

The result is content that loads extremely quickly, at the cost of having to provide dual versions of articles. If you’re a WordPress user, you can try out AMP right away by using this plugin — WordPress is a partner in the AMP project. You can’t decide whether WordPress loads the AMP or the HTML version for specific users, because at the moment that’s handled in search and by applications. From February, Google’s mobile search will direct users to AMP copies of pages on sites that have implemented the protocol.

Will AMP benefit your site’s mobile users? It will if your site is loaded with excessive tracking scripts, advertising scripts, and other miscellaneous JavaScript. If your pages are already relatively svelte and free of JavaScript cruft, adding the 100 KB AMP JavaScript may well slow them down.

Which brings us to the key question: is AMP the right solution when publishers could simply remove the cause of the problem in the first place? For the time being, given the state of the online publishing economy, I think AMP is probably a net positive. Site owners will be able to monetize mobile users without giving them a terrible experience, or being forced to remove the tracking and advertising scripts they rely on for users of desktop and laptop machines.

Matthew Davis is a technical writer and Linux geek for Future Hosting.

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