Speed trap | Google promised to create a better, faster web for media companies with a new standard called AMP. In the end, it ruined the trust publishers had in the internet giant.
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- How Google tried to fix the web - by taking it over
- David Pierce
- May 8 2023
- Word count
- 6189 words
I'm a bit tired of hearing about AMP. Too many words, not enough understanding. At least this article correctly frames it as a response to Instant Articles and Apple News.
AMP is a subset of HTML designed to be safe for preloading. Populating the cache for instant results is the entire point of the spec. It's no more cheating than using a CDN, or minifying your content.
I understand why publishers are upset about not allowing JS in the
<head>, but that's part of the appeal for users. It's the 20 years of filling the page with crap that got us to this point.
But I'm pretty sure they're wrong about third-parties. Those are supported by both <amp-ad> and <amp-analytics>. Maybe that wasn't true originally, but I'm sure I remember a long list of supported ad providers (30+) from the initial version.
The issue isn't the technical details of AMP - they're fine, and as you say, have a lot of useful restrictions.
The issue is Google applying monopoly pressure to the publishing industry by de-ranking pages that didn't use AMP.
I understand that, and I've criticized them for that in the past as well. But it's worth clarifying that they never actually deranked anybody for failing to implement AMP.
What they did was introduce a new search vertical that featured AMP pages. That's what publishers were interested in appearing in. Similar to businesses that try to show up in local results, which are separate from the organic SERPs.
I realize it might seem like a distinction without a difference, but it's the basis for Google's claims that AMP did not affect search results.
Factually, you're absolutely right, but for end users of search, it is indeed a distinction without a difference. It's legal weaseling with no bearing on morality.
It's a critically important difference which perfectly explains why it was such a problem. The thing that content companies get actual value from isn't their proprietary google ranking, it's their actual position in the results page. If you didn't play Google's game, then your content was being deprioritized from potential viewers. And for almost every webpage on the planet, Google Search is the #1 way for people to access it. This wasn't just a scare; this had real financial effects on publishers.
I agree completely. The distinction matters to Google, but likely not to those who it most directly affects.
They never cheated in the game, but they did change the rules so they could still win.