Google’s new Accelerated Mobile Pages, aka AMP, makes websites load fast. Like, really fast. But that speed comes with a few changes to how the open web works.
To use AMP, you create an alternate version of your site that conforms to the specifications published by the AMP project. These standards are a lot like traditional HTML but pared down to what Google considers to be the bare minimum. Typically you’ll give your AMP-optimized site a separate address, for example: yoursite.com/yourpage/amp. If you use WordPress, there’s actually a plugin will automatically create these alternate versions and help Google find them. But you could, theoretically, just replace your whole site with AMP optimized pages, and it would still work in most modern web browsers, though it might be a bit drab.
With its AMP search results, Google is amassing content on its servers and keeping readers on Google.
Sites that follow these specifications to the letter will receive special treatment from Google. AMP-optimized new stories now appear at the top of Google’s mobile search results. That sounds great for publishers who have decided to build AMP sites, but there’s a big catch: if readers decide to share a link to an AMP page they’ve clicked on through a Google search, the link points to Google.com (for example, google.com/amp/yoursite.com/yourpage/amp), not to your site. A Google spokesperson confirms that there isn’t a way to both have your AMP-optimized appear in Google’s prioritized search listings without having that content hosted on Google’s AMP Cache servers.
That’s a significant change in how the Google search engine works. Historically, Google has acted as an index that points people away from Google to other websites. With its AMP search results, Google is amassing content on its servers and keeping readers on Google.
In that sense, Google’s use of AMP is similar to Facebook’s Instant Articles service, to which it’s often compared. Facebook Instant Articles gives publishers the option of embedding their content on Facebook’s servers so that users can read an article without ever leaving the Facebook mobile app. Unlike Instant Articles, however, sites that follow the AMP standard can also be embedded on other sites as well. Twitter and Pinterest, for example, are expected to begin using AMP to embed pages on their sites or mobile apps in the near future.
But What About Ads?
These workarounds enable more freedom for publishers, but it also means there’s still room for them to serve invasive scripts to readers. Improved performance won’t always mean improved privacy. It also means more of the web will be shaped by Google.