Google changes tact on AMP

A surprise move today, with Google moving to change its policy on its AMP project: it's mulling moving beyond requiring a custom implication at all.

A quick primer, as I suspect Google AMP is a project that's on the fringes for most people, but has huge implications for the web. AMP is an open-source framework commissioned by Google that aimed to help publishers build lightning-quick experiences, and in return rewarded them with better news carousel placement and a little lightning icon in results.

AMP, at its earliest beginnings, was a project born out of the media industry's ignorance. 

Pages continued to be filled with cruft, abusive advertising and were slow because the media industry just couldn't help itself if it wanted to — AMP promised to be a way to force publishers into doing something about it by creating rules, and offering free caching.

The bet worked. AMP is everywhere, primarily because Google dangled a carrot on a stick: better search result visibility. That, however, caused nervous chatter in the industry as people wondered aloud if we were ceding control to Google willingly.

Google, understandably, is perceived as the evil puppet master because it has the ability to influence change online, and such a project would be a convenient way to basically take control of the web as we know it. 

Instead of pursuing its own framework, Google is now pushing the web standards bodies to adopt technology inspired by AMP. Instead of pushing its own technology, it's hoping that the bodies will adopt the ideas behind AMP including performance timelines, feature policy and more.

An interview over on The Verge digs into this more, revealing that Google regrets how the project was communicated in the first place:

The intention here is to be better about communicating our intent. We’ve always wanted to [make the technology behind AMP a web standard] and always said this, but not very clearly. … We just want to communicate very clearly that AMP is not anything other than trying to make the web better. The lessons learned from AMP are being put into the standard bodies so we can have other frameworks implement the same stuff too.

If Google is able to disentangle itself from AMP, and create a standard that guarantees faster loading, and allows caching for instant-loading 'packages' of websites, the project gets more interesting as concerns over the company's motivations go away.

The project, since creation, has been a rollercoaster of excitement, frustration and confusion, but with the current state of the mobile web and this new position, perhaps there's a chance to make things better — if it pans out the way they're saying.

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