13 October 2015

Nieman Journalism Lab: “Get AMP’d: Here’s what publishers need to know”

As I said, AMP is full of terrific ideas. It really does speed up load times.

But that success comes with tradeoffs. For most publishers, you’re being asked to set up two parallel versions of your stories. (Unless you really think you won’t need to ever do anything outside what AMP allows on any page, which is unrealistic for most.) That takes significant time and resources. You’re being asked to set aside most or all of the ad tech and analytics that you use. You’re trading in open web standards for something built by Google engineers who, despite what I don’t doubt are the best of intentions, have incentives that don’t line up perfectly with yours. And you’re becoming an disempowered actor in a larger Silicon Valley battle over ad tech. (Google advocating something that blocks enormous slices of contemporary ad tech can’t be viewed in isolation from the fact Google is the dominant force in online advertising, and as interested as any company is in extending its power.)

Joshua Benton

Not long after Facebook and Apple entered news distribution, here comes Google’s reaction. The trouble is, Google likes to paint itself as the ‘open alternative’ to the closed platforms of competitors, without actually being open in the more sensitive areas. That seems to be the case with AMP as well: instead of relying on open standards, Google is asking publishers to use its custom version of HTML, where Google gets to decide what external content is allowed – including tracking scripts and advertising. Just like Facebook and Apple, Google is trying to control the user experience around news and promote their own competing platform – and in the end to reap larger profits from advertising. Ultimately, the choice comes down to who do you trust more: Google, Facebook or Apple?

How AMP HTML works

This promise of improved distribution for pages using AMP HTML shifts the incentive. AMP isn’t encouraging better performance on the web; AMP is encouraging the use of their specific tool to build a version of a web page. It doesn’t feel like something helping the open web so much as it feels like something bringing a little bit of the walled garden mentality of native development onto the web.

That troubles me. Using a very specific tool to build a tailored version of my page in order to “reach everyone” doesn’t fit any definition of the “open web” that I’ve ever heard.

Tim Kadlec

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