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Google's answer to Facebook Instant Articles is now available on the mobile web

Google's answer to Facebook Instant Articles is now available on the mobile web


AMPed up

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Last fall Google announced Accelerated Mobile Pages — an open-source project to speed up the mobile web by changing how web pages are built and displayed. The project, which followed similar efforts from Facebook and Apple, promises to result in pages that load four times as fast and use 10 times less data than traditional pages. After a four-month technical preview that involved hundreds of publishers, including Vox Media, The Verge's parent company, AMP results will begin appearing in Google search results today.

When you search for a topic in the news on the mobile web, AMP results appear below the "Top stories" section on the results page. AMP results, which are designated with a green lightning bolt icon, appear in a carousel. Tap a story and it loads almost instantly; to see related stories from other AMP publishers, you can simply swipe from right to left and another article will load instantly. Today the feature is available only if you visit using a mobile browser, but AMP results will be coming to search results on Google's Android and iOS apps "soon," the company says.

Coming soon to Android and iOS

"We believe in getting content to users as fast as possible," says David Besbris, a vice president of engineering at Google who has overseen the AMP project. "Helping content load really fast really helps publishers." It helps Google, too: the company, which earns most of its profits from web advertising, is increasingly threatened by the migration of content to Facebook. For Google, AMP represents an effort to keep the web open, growing, and profitable.

google amp

Besbris says the effort is going well so far: more than 5,800 developers have accessed the GitHub repository, and they've submitted code 1,200 times. In my own tests, AMP delivered on its promise: articles do load instantly, and it's nice to be able to swipe over to additional takes on the same subject. Google's challenge is the decline of the mobile web as a destination for news searches. Particularly in America, you're more likely to find a news story by idly thumbing through your Facebook feed than you are to open your mobile browser and tap out a few keywords.

That helps to explain why Google has courted publishers so aggressively: letting them host their own content if they like, unlike Facebook's Instant Articles, and giving them more control over the design of their pages. The company says hundreds of publishers are already on board with AMP. We're about to find out how many users will follow them.