Mobile Tech

Google Spearheads Effort to Hook Mobile Web on Speed

Google on Wednesday announced Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, an open source initiative to speed up mobile Web page loading.

The aim is to have Web pages with rich content — such as video, animations and graphics — work alongside smart ads and load instantly, with one code working across multiple platforms and devices.

The project will use AMP HTML, an open framework based on existing Web technologies, which lets developers build lightweight Web pages.

Good Enough Is Good Enough

That raises the question of whether lightweight Web pages will lack rich content, but AMP will rely on a trade-off, said Mukul Krishna, global director, digital media, atFrost & Sullivan.

“Google seems to be looking at the lowest common denominator and creating some sort of standardized mobile capability for mobile Web pages based on that,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Is that ideal for everyone? No,” Krishna said. “Does it optimize most situations to a relatively acceptable degree? Yes.”

Participants must “figure out what is great, what is good enough, and whether good enough lets them say they would rather the customer see this targeted advertising message than have the customer go somewhere else,” he remarked.

What AMP Will Do

AMP HTML is designed to support smart caching, predictable performance and modern mobile content.

It’s based on existing Web technologies and isn’t a template-based system, so publishers will continue to host their own content, innovate on their user experiences, and flexibly integrate their advertising and business models.

However, it won’t work with all technology from advertisers or tech vendors, Google cautioned.

Pages will be accelerated using caches created by Google and others.

Tapping into Google’s caches “will reduce turnaround time when people request a page,” Krishna observed. “From the mobile perspective, every microsecond counts. With every bit of latency you might lose an eyeball that goes somewhere else.”

Who’s Signed On

AMP has drawn publishers such as Time, The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, and companies in Portugal, Spain, China and Japan.

Technology partners include Twitter, WordPress,, Pinterest, Nuzzel, LinkedIn and Adobe Analytics.

“We are thrilled to be working alongside Google and other industry leaders to create a better mobile Web experience inside of all apps,” said Michael Ducker, group product manager forTwitter.

“By partnering with publishers, we are helping them achieve their goals and tell stories with tweets,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Twitter will discuss the use of AMP at its Flight developer conference later this month in San Francisco.

Why AMP’s Getting Love

It could be argued that publishers — and anyone carrying ads — are signing on with AMP partly because Google is a major advertising channel.

There’s another, possibly more important, reason: the loss of revenue caused by ad blocking.

There are 198 million active ad-block software users worldwide, PageFair found, and ad blocking will cost publishers nearly US$22 billion this year.

“Current ad loads on mobile pages are so large that in some instances they account for two-thirds of what people pay for the Web page load,” said Michael Goodman, a research director atStrategy Analytics.

AMP “is an effort by Google to make ads more palatable to users and reduce their incentive to use ad-blocking software,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Ad blocking works. Adblock Plus commissioned a study by Simon Fraser University that concluded the software cut total data usage by 40 percent.

Keeping Pace With Competitors

Facebook’s and Apple’s recent moves in the field of news distribution also may have spurred Google to launch AMP.

“News is sticky, and platform-centric competitors like Google place a premium on the engagement they deliver,” said John Jackson, a mobility analyst atIDC.

“We’ve seen Facebook launch a concerted play for news outlets to publish and distribute within its news feed (Instant Articles), and Apple launch Flipboard-esque Apple News, while at the same time appearing to advance an ad-free agenda,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The introduction of AMP, Jackson said, indicates “increasing competition between these platform giants for influence over the way news gets distributed, consumed and monetized.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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