Google's AMP Gives Publishers a New Place to Shine - Minus the Drawbacks

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Last week, Google issued an important blog post about their Accelerated Mobile Pages Project (AMP for short). It comes at a time when Facebook also just issued an announcement that on April 12, Instant Articles will be more accessible for "all publishers—of any size, anywhere in the world."  

While these mega-companies are trying to help publishers play better in the new arena, they are also bringing their own rulebook. 

"Now when you search for a story or topic on Google from a mobile device, webpages created using AMP will appear when relevant in the Top Stories section of the search results page," the Google blog reads. "Any story you choose to read will load blazingly fast—and it's easy to scroll through the article without it taking forever to load or jumping all around as you read. It's also easy to quickly flip through the search results just by swiping from one full-page AMP story to the next."

Basically, it's a Google-supported framework for fast-loading mobile websites. There's a site with an introduction, tutorial and code for using AMP HTML. They have a very specific set of best practices that define the way your pages are designed, coded, organized, and optimized.

Follow those practices and you might get featured at the top of their mobile search results. That's the prime motivation here, though overall, you should get fast-loading and attractive pages—with Google hosting them on its own servers.

"AMP is great for browsing the web on mobile devices, because webpages built with AMP load an average of four times faster and use 10 times less data than equivalent non-AMP pages," the blog post goes on. "In many cases, they'll load instantly. It's how reading on the mobile web should be—fast, responsive and fun."

Facebook is saying that it has "made it easy for publishers to join by building a system based on the tools they already use. Instant Articles uses the languages of the web and works with publishers' content management systems, and we have documented an open standard that is easy for publishers to adopt. We encourage all interested publishers to review our documentation and prepare for open availability in April..."

An advantage to using both new systems is that they could dissuade readers from using ad blockers on their mobile devices. Also, by creating AMP, Google is trying to improve the non-app, mobile experience. But there are a couple downsides, as pointed out by Associations Now:

- Backend work needed: With AMP, you will "have to essentially build a separate version of your website with AMP support, something that will require some backend work to support." But already other startups—like PageFrog—are offering solutions that even include Instant Articles.

- Design capabilities more limited: AMP can facilitate nice design—The Guardian and BuzzFeed look familiar in their AMP versions—but "there are certain things you can't do... nearly all Javascript is disabled; for another, a number of common cascading style sheets (CSS) tricks are off-limits.

- AMP URLs aren't the same: "Google displays AMP pages with a different URL than you might normally find... generally a Google URL with buried in the mix somewhere farther down the URL." That means multiple URLs for the same article. But again, others are working to fix this.

According to Wired, one difference between AMP and Instant Articles is that "sites that follow the AMP standard can also be embedded on other sites as well. Twitter and Pinterest are expected to begin using AMP to embed pages on their sites or mobile apps in the near future."

Wired also points out that AMP includes a "special analytics tag that allows publishers to send data to pre-screened analytics providers such as Chartbeat, Adobe, and This is handled by a single JavaScript file instead of a separate script for each analytics provider. That file is loaded from Google's servers, which can speed things up considerably for pages that use multiple analytics providers."

The decision about control and where your content lives will be a complicated one. But given the scope of Google and Facebook, it will be worth looking at AMP and Instant Articles to see how they can work best for you.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…