Google is beginning a journey to transform the mobile web as we know it — but they’re trying to play it cool, guys.
In a blog post that was conspicuously not an official Google communique, the heads of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project shared that the company is going to try to convince web standards organizations to recommend that the whole mobile web function like a non-Google proprietary version of AMP. No biggie!
Two years ago, Google realized they had to do something about the fact that web pages loaded really crappily on mobile devices. To make pages load more quickly and compatibly on smartphones, companies turned to proprietary solutions: Facebook unveiled Instant Articles, and Apple rolled out its own walled-off mobile web experience in Apple News, to name two higher-profile examples.
AMP was Google’s answer: when you open a web page on Chrome or from Twitter from an organization that is part of the AMP network, the page is pre-loaded in a mobile-friendly way. Pages that get pulled in to Google’s “Top Stories” carousel are part of AMP.
Now, apparently Google is so happy with AMP, that its team in charge of the project want to share “what they’ve learned” to improve the whole web — not just those websites who specifically choose to work with Google.
“Based on what we learned from AMP, we now feel ready to take the next step and work to support more instant-loading content not based on AMP technology,” the post reads.
Essentially, this is the announcement of a years-long project to get web standards organizations to sign on to Google’s vision of a “user-first” mobile web, guided by the “well-lit path” of AMP. Google doesn’t want the whole web to become Google-owned, or run on AMP itself. But it supposedly wants to improve the experience of the whole internet for web browsers by sharing the technology and learnings from its AMP project.
Web standards organizations (there are several) don’t have a mechanism to initiate a sea change of this sort. So Google’s essentially providing them with the research technology they need for a new set of standards, plus a kick in the butt to get going.
A more efficient, easy-to-navigate web sounds pretty good. The web was built, and currently has standards for, a desktop-based experience. But the reach of mobile is long and growing: in 2015, over half of Google searches came from smartphones, and since then, Americans’ smartphone ownership has increased to 77 percent. In other words, the way we actually use the web today is no longer congruent with the way it was built.
But making the web more mobile-friendly is good business for Google, too. If Google searches and services are continually frustrating experiences compared to the instantaneous loading of Facebook and Apple News, fewer people will turn to them, and what’s traditionally thought of as the world wide web, for their news and information.
Google wants to send the clear message that it won’t hold the reins (or the appearance of holding the reins) too tightly on AMP. Remaking the internet in AMP’s image might turn off Google skeptics who see them as a greedy conglomerate —a far cry from “Don’t Be Evil.” In an interview with The Verge, David Besbris, VP of search engineering at Google, said “this is honestly a fairly altruistic project from our perspective.”
In this case, benevolence and good business might just overlap.