Google's latest attempt at controling the web - Google AMP
June 2, 2017 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Google AMP is the latest big push by Google to make the web faster. Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) which is a restricted set of HTML tags, no user defined JavaScript or analytics, and they cache the pages in their network. The public intent is to speed up the web by reducing web page bloat. Of course, some people have a problem with this such as Kill Google AMP before it KILLS the web.

By using this service Google is basically hosting publisher content with the ability to insert their own material. Or even worse giving credibility to propaganda websites because the URLs start with google.co. A prefix can make fishing attacks even more effective.

A round up of criticisms.

Google AMP is Not a Good Thing

Scott Gilbertson: ‘Kill Google AMP Before It Kills the Web’

Metafilter's Idlewords-Maciej Ceglowski chimes in with FOOLISH SOLUTIONS FOR BLOAT
posted by KaizenSoze (44 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'll just paste n-gate's summary of the Hacker News discussion. Emphasis is mine:
"An internet accurately describes Google's AMP program for what it is -- a barely-disguised attempt to shove more of the internet into itself, the better to track the living shit out of every human being on earth. Hackernews has attempted to avoid this program by using it heavily. Half the comments are Hackernews insisting that it is not only impossible to compete with Google in any way but also insane to try. Some Googles show up to assure everyone that this is for the greater good, and if you'd all just stop talking and get in line the whole process will be nearly painless. A few Hackernews suggest that AMP's feature set can be replicated with a "stop shoving every fucking possible line of javascript into every single pageload" approach, but they are quickly chloroformed and edited out of past Christmas photos."
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:18 AM on June 2, 2017 [38 favorites]


It's actually a real worry, on the other hand they have a very real counterpoint in the form of all the malware, shit and bloat publishers put on top of their non-AMP pages.
posted by Artw at 8:21 AM on June 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


As someone who cares about the open web, AMP makes me very nervous.

As a user of a mobile phone, AMP is a delight. When I see the little lightning bolt icon I know I'll get instant page loading. Without it, I could well be in for a 5 second wait - or longer - even when I'm on LTE.

As a veteran web engineer, watching companies building AMP pages and discovering that you can serve the same content in less than a tenth of the bytes if you just leave out all that "modern" JavaScript is pretty satisfying. This may end up being AMP's most valuable contribution.
posted by simonw at 8:26 AM on June 2, 2017 [24 favorites]


As a veteran web engineer, watching companies building AMP pages and discovering that you can serve the same content in less than a tenth of the bytes if you just leave out all that "modern" JavaScript is pretty satisfying. This may end up being AMP's most valuable contribution.

It sounds like WebAssembly is starting to gain some steam, which is well-timed. It'll be nice to have some concrete alternatives available once people are ready to jump off the JS Framework train for good.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:30 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I thought their latest attempt at controlling the web was Contributor.
posted by 7segment at 8:32 AM on June 2, 2017


I'm really torn about AMP. I like the basic technology, the super-fast stripped down pages. I guiltily like it when I get an AMP link on my iPhone because I know it's going to load fast and be readable. OTOH the way Google intercepts the traffic and hosts caches the page is really awful and predatory. It feels like a walled garden.

The weird thing is AMP is not intended to be a walled garden; as arrogant as Google can be they're not quite that bad. There's an open spec for running your own AMP cache; Cloudflare even runs one. I don't honestly know how well it works in practice though, I've never seen a non-Google AMP cache in practice. Anyone have an example? Does Google treat it as a first class AMP resource in its search results page or do they give their own cache special treatment?
posted by Nelson at 8:39 AM on June 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


WebAssembly just seems like a way for advertisers to shovel in even worse horrors TBH.
posted by Artw at 8:40 AM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


A solid strategy is to never go on the web again. Goodbye.

EDIT: Back. I've come to my senses.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:41 AM on June 2, 2017 [16 favorites]


oh man I hate AMP, on my phone I'd love a way to turn it off.
posted by Carillon at 8:56 AM on June 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Surely this advertising company means well with their efforts to pull all web content under their umbrella.
posted by truex at 8:59 AM on June 2, 2017 [8 favorites]


Web developers, especially for the news, have been irresponsible and they now require correction. Had their chance, and fucking blew it.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:00 AM on June 2, 2017 [12 favorites]


I switched my iPhone's default search to DuckDuckGo this morning because that seems to be the only way to avoid it. It's so disorienting.
posted by mariokrat at 9:04 AM on June 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


We run an nonprofit online science magazine that doesn't use AMP because it offers a user experience that's weird, disorienting and feels "wrong". We might lose traffic because of it, but I think having a better product is more important than being visible, and we feel that we will receive long run gains over short term potential gains.
posted by HakaiMagazine at 9:14 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Re Nelson's comment:

My sense is that running your own AMP Cache is meaningless unless you have a critical mass of other sites running through it where there's a decent likelihood of the cached AMP pages actually being called. So CloudFlare hosts enough traffic where that makes sense, and them "AMP-ifying" all their customers' pages is a way to improve that. But just because you can pull the source and spin up your own AMP cache on your own machine doesn't mean it'd actually accomplish anything useful.
posted by LeDiva at 9:23 AM on June 2, 2017


I'm always happy to see AMP links on my phone. They load faster, look better and don't have garbage on them. The web community should make an open standard that delivers the same quality. Until then, I don't see how you can criticize Google for doing it.
posted by demiurge at 9:29 AM on June 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


The web community should make an open standard that delivers the same quality. Until then, I don't see how you can criticize Google for doing it

That's an excellent point. I think for all that everyone talks about mobile stuff, web dev has really given it short shrift.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:40 AM on June 2, 2017


AMP is mostly a defensive maneuver, to encourage publishers to leave content accessible on the public web and prevent Facebook or other apps from walling off every single news article where Google can't crawl it.

In other words, this is less about giving Google control and more about preventing Facebook from taking more.
posted by xthlc at 9:50 AM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


Web developers, especially for the news, have been irresponsible and they now require correction. Had their chance, and fucking blew it.

The webdevs I know in journalism HATE HATE HATE all the garblebloat as much as anyone does - more so, I think, because they are forced to do it. The whole thing is driven by ad sales, who absolutely refuse to acknowledge that piling on more shit is in any way counterproductive, and long ago made it perfectly clear to dev (and editorial) that any deviation from this is not welcome and will not be heard, so keep your bloody nerdy traps shut.

As for AMP - what, precisely, would you do instead? Bonus points for practicality.
posted by Devonian at 10:19 AM on June 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


As a user, I hate AMP because the carousel tends to surface lower quality sites just because they happen to use AMP. You also stumble onto the odd article where something in it doesn't work and it's practically impossible to get to the regular mobile web version to see the content you are missing. Sharing is also an odd experience. The mobile web needs some speed improvements, AMP and FB's Instant Articles are not the answer.
posted by missmerrymack at 10:31 AM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


Y'all, I am rolling my eyes SO HARD at the framing of this post. Caching is not "hosting" or "controlling" anything. It's one of the most common techniques in computer science for speeding things up. If Google wanted to alter the content of pages without the owner's (and/or users’) consent, just operating a search engine is enough to make that possible. Running a cache doesn't give Google much in the way of new opportunities to be evil. If Google were using AMP to maliciously alter page content (a.k.a. run a man-in-the-middle attack), it would be front-page news all over the place. At a minimum, content providers would drop AMP like a hot potato, and any company that has any kind of business relationship with Google would re-evaluate that relationship.

I'm other words, Google wouldn't do that because it would be Trump-level stupid for them (or any legitimate company) to openly adopt the tactics of a Russian botnet.
posted by shponglespore at 10:32 AM on June 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


AMP pages don't work on my iPhone. What am I doing wrong?
posted by grog at 10:34 AM on June 2, 2017


My sense is that running your own AMP Cache is meaningless unless you have a critical mass of other sites running through it where there's a decent likelihood of the cached AMP pages actually being called.

I'm confused on this point and haven't seen enough good writing about AMP to clarify. Does anyone here know?

What if Metafilter built an AMP version of the site. And ran its own AMP cache using some open source AMP server and served pages with AMP markup. Let's assume its hosted it on the same machine as the main MeFi web server, so there's no CDN benefits. But wouldn't there still be the benefit of AMP markup being small and fast and render nicely on mobile? Only Metafilter would own everything and Google would not be involved at all?

My real question is whether Google search would show Metafilter's AMP cache links in this scenario. How does Google decide to show an AMP link in the search results page instead of a regular link? Does it specially treat its own AMP cache differently from third parties?
posted by Nelson at 10:40 AM on June 2, 2017


AMP frequently brings my ~2yo phone to its knees for reasons I cannot begin to explain. It is a goddamn pox and I hate it with a passion. Kill it with fire.
posted by tocts at 10:58 AM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


Until then, I don't see how you can criticize Google for doing it.

It's not like you could use the google.com in the web address for anything, right.

It's a fucking dumb idea. It's reminiscent of the '90s where not-so-prolific brands gave away their domain names to content networks to appear as subdomains under said content network.
posted by Talez at 10:59 AM on June 2, 2017 [8 favorites]


But is AMP brutalist?
posted by tobascodagama at 11:00 AM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


AMP is bullshit, but there really DOES need to be some kind of a simplification of page loads. It's gotten beyond out of control. Web devs may be conscious of the problem (certainly, not all of them are, and not everybody producing content for the web CAN be considered a web dev), but as stated earlier, they still do it. All AMP does is trade one evil for another.
posted by destructive cactus at 11:13 AM on June 2, 2017


I switched my iPhone's default search to DuckDuckGo this morning because that seems to be the only way to avoid it.

Yep. AMP pushed me to switch my default search to DuckDuckGo on my iPhone earlier this year. If it becomes standard for desktop results* i’ll be switching on my laptop and desktop computers as well. Or i suppose i could just Bing it.

* I won’t sign in to Google to save any preferences settings so that they can track me better; i use the Self-Destructing Cookies Firefox extension to flush my cookies anyway.
posted by D.C. at 11:15 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


BTW if you really want to get mad about Google changing the web, get a load of their ad blocking plans.
posted by Nelson at 11:15 AM on June 2, 2017 [8 favorites]


Web developers, especially for the news, have been irresponsible and they now require correction.

This is a true statement. I have mixed feelings about AMP per se, but my Windows/Android/Ubuntu install is not just a bootloader for my web browser. I don't want my browser to be able to execute arbitrary code approximately automatically, and I don't want content to require I allow it to execute arbitrary code in order to access it.

(I rarely get what I want)
posted by PMdixon at 11:30 AM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


My understanding is that you can run your own AMP cache if you want, but Google will use its own cache whenever it serves a hit that comes from search. Given that, I don't really see the point of running your own cache. This allows Google to preload AMP results in the background and to support the swipey-swipey between results in the carousel, but it also breaks the URL, you know, just the basic building block of the web.

As for AMP - what, precisely, would you do instead? Bonus points for practicality.

Don't make shitty websites?

BTW if you really want to get mad about Google changing the web, get a load of their ad blocking plans.

Yeah. This is the terrifying part, and the point where Google tries to wind up as the middleman for an enormous quantity of journalism.
posted by zachlipton at 11:36 AM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's not like you could use the google.com in the web address for anything, right.

It's important to understand that the issues people have with this is not because "Google came out with some thoughts on speeding up websites by using less garbage", it's generally because "Google came out with some thoughts on speeding up websites...and then has all those pages show up as living under Google.com, and only added a (quirky) way to get the real link as an afterthought. And they figured they'd break native scrolling behaviors for fun too."
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:37 AM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


> AMP is bullshit, but there really DOES need to be some kind of a simplification of page loads. It's gotten beyond out of control.

You could have a word with Google regarding GWT and Angular, which have done a lot to bring the cost of generating web bloat to levels affordable by small and medium-size businesses.
posted by ardgedee at 11:52 AM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


(I mean, Google's far from the only instigator; extJS predates them all and Facebook has React and there are innumerable other projects as well, but Google's done the yeoman's work by backing core toolkits and popularizing the MVC approach.)
posted by ardgedee at 11:55 AM on June 2, 2017


Oh my God I didn't know what this was but I knew I hated it! I thought I was doing something wrong because I couldn't copy and paste links correctly to send them to people anymore!
posted by brilliantine at 12:04 PM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


AMP is bullshit, but there really DOES need to be some kind of a simplification of page loads.

Totally. Here is my personal craaaaaazy idea:

Stop putting all that insane fucking tracky bullshit, unasked-for-streaming-media, and processor-chewing nonsense JS on every page load. Instead, use regular old HTML. I bet you could even define a standard structure that is a strict subset of regular-ass HTML and is easily validated with some common tool that isn't another obvious massive power grab.

I spent some time yesterday combing through the AMP introductory materials. It's a bullshit spec, and there is not as far as I can tell a single advantage conferred by the technology involved that requires any of the power grab aspects.

Google sucks.
posted by brennen at 12:22 PM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


I mean:
<!doctype html>
<html amp lang="en">
  <head>
    <meta charset="utf-8">
    <script async src="https://cdn.ampproject.org/v0.js"></script>
An AMP page definitionally runs, you know, whatever that code is.

Blergh.
posted by brennen at 12:29 PM on June 2, 2017


Don't blame web developers (mostly). In my experience, this is entirely the result of marketing/sales and the pursuit of another nickle in ad revenue. In the end, advertising is what is destroying the Internet through all of its indirect demands and influences.

It's also the #1 drive for NOT encrypting things.
posted by petrilli at 4:22 PM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


oh man I hate AMP, on my phone I'd love a way to turn it off.

As mariokrat and D.C. mentioned, moving to Duck Duck Go does the trick (and you get used to the functionality after a while)

Oh my God I didn't know what this was but I knew I hated it! I thought I was doing something wrong because I couldn't copy and paste links correctly to send them to people anymore!

...and this is exactly what forced me off Google, on mobile at least. I am guilty of being the group oversharer on a number of WhatsApp threads and AMP cramps my style, which favors natural links (for maximum flexibility) and zero link barf. Of course I favour speedy page loads and no ad/script bloat, but that needs to be the source's responsibility. Nice try Googs, but 😒😒😒 to your "innocent" attempt.
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 5:12 PM on June 2, 2017


But is AMP brutalist?

Back in the day we called it WAP...
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:30 PM on June 2, 2017 [7 favorites]


unasked-for-streaming-media

Oh shit, I hate that. Autoplay videos, and layovers, should be punishable by jail time. The sentence should be doubled for anyone who does it on a mobile device. Also, pro-tip dickweed websites I WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO SEND ME NOTIFICATIONS. EVER. IN A MILLION YEARS.

(also sharing my location is something that happens like once every three years for very specific reasons. Odds are not good your website meets those reasons).
posted by smoke at 6:46 PM on June 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


I can argue this one both ways. It is in Google's financial interest to increase their monopoly - recall Facebook's success in getting companies to put their brand after facebook.com - and if you're a shareholder, a monopoly's a beautiful thing. So from that perspective, yeah, naughty Google.

The other side of the coin is that the web dev community has had a decade and a very free hand to come up with ways of reducing page bloat. By and large, they've wasted the opportunity. (I take my small percentage of responsibility here - I've been as willing to follow the trends as the next developer, up until the utter farce that is the node.js ecosystem.) So Google's come up with a solution to a real problem. It's a problematic solution, but when everyone else is sucking this much...

It's been a rare few who have fought the trend of auto-loading videos and 1MB+ PNGs... Ilya Grigorik is a notable example (and he works for Google!) Also the people writing for Smashing Magazine and A List Apart. The actual solution here is what brennen said - clean, semantic HTML and ditching most of your Javascript. But hey! Ditching Javascript means you can't claim to be a rockstar and reinvent the wheel every other week. So that's a no go, obvs.

/grumbles
posted by iffthen at 7:24 AM on June 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Don't blame web developers (mostly). In my experience, this is entirely the result of marketing/sales and the pursuit of another nickle in ad revenue. In the end, advertising is what is destroying the Internet through all of its indirect demands and influences.

Yes if there's one thing Google is known for it is their antagonism towards advertising.

It's all nice and good to blame the naughty naughty ad makers, but even leaving aside malware/security concerns there is 0 priority placed on optimizing usage of client-side resources. I'm not cool with that.
posted by PMdixon at 10:46 AM on June 3, 2017


That is entirely not true.
posted by Artw at 11:03 AM on June 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Nope. Hate AMP. Hate it especially on mobile, because it bypasses the absurdly lame adblockers available on iOS. Always have to do some stupid-ass monkey clicking to reload the page in safari or strip the AMP crap from the URL to get a page that I can stand to interact with.

Fuck AMP. I don't care about fast, I care about no ads.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 5:10 PM on June 5, 2017


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