Google has a new plan to speed up the mobile web. Today, the company announced a technical preview for a system called Accelerated Mobile Pages (or AMP), designed to fight many of the factors slowing and bloating mobile web pages. Google has been working with a number of publishers on the system, including The Guardian, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and Vox Media, The Verge's parent company. The system is available at a preview link here.
After today, the result of that work will be available on a public GitHub repository, offering more commonly held code and a smarter caching system. If the system works, users should see lighter, faster-loading mobile web pages as a result. "We're here because we love the web and we feel the web can be better than it is," said Richard Gingras, Google's head of News. "We can make the web great again."
"We can make the web great again."
The system is still in technical preview, but the announcement comes on the heels of a number of major programs for offsite content hosting. Facebook introduced Instant Articles in May, allowing publishers to push content directly to Facebook in exchange for faster load times and simpler advertising. Apple has taken a similar approach with Apple News, introduced at WWDC in June. At the same time, the new availability of ad-blocking applications in iOS 9 has given many users a new opportunity to bypass many bloated tracking systems entirely, prompting new urgency for publishers looking to shrink mobile pages.
That urgency is also being felt within Google, which derives the vast majority of its revenues from web advertising and is increasingly threatened by the migration of content to closed systems. Gingras spoke with deep conviction today about the power of the web — but never mentioned that Google's own future depends on a thriving, open internet.
Still, Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages system is more open than the alternatives from Facebook and Apple. The core of the system is an open-source GitHub repository, which companies can adapt and fork as needed. Individual libraries or systems can also be adopted individually, working more as a toolkit than a self-contained portal.
At the same time, there are real similarities to native hosting. Google and its partners will still wield non-trivial power in how advertising and tracking can take place within the system. While the system allows for third-party caching, Google's powerful hosting network means the vast majority of AMP content will likely be hosted on the company's servers. As such, the system is likely to revive concerns over the increasing balkanization of internet platforms, with Google representing a more open, web-integrated alternative to more controlled platforms within Apple and Facebook.
Casey Newton contributed to this report.