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Google takes on Apple News, Facebook Instant Articles with AMP

Matt Kapko | Oct. 15, 2015
Google wants to play a more significant role in the development and delivery of news on mobile devices, and its new open source AMP initiative already has an impressive list of supporters. But will it be enough to compete with Apple and Facebook?

AMP a stripped down version of the open Web 

AMP fits in well with the "happy triumvirate that is the open Web — HTML, CSS and JavaScript," according to Facemire, but it also severely limits the latter component to restrict obtrusive ads. The open-source AMP approach should be more attractive to developers than the closed Apple, Facebook and Twitter platforms, Facemire says, and it should contribute to a greater speed of adoption. All of AMP's supporters have a heavy interest in the mobile Web, especially as it becomes their primary content delivery system, he adds. "It also benefits the altruistic argument, 'Let's all come together and build the modern open Web.'"

Many of today's leading publishers partnered with Facebook and Apple to reach their massive user bases, but there's a growing fear that those closed approaches might be too much of a land grab. Media companies contribute to these various efforts because they don't want to be left behind, but concerns over the viability of these business models remain.

AMP, Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles all deliver vastly improved experiences for users compared to traditional mobile sites, but AMP is unique because it claims to be an open-source initiative meant to benefit publishers, advertisers and users. Meanwhile, an underlying perception exists that Apple and Facebook's partner-centric approaches will result in the formation of winners and losers based on those platforms' business interests. 

"If we have a standardized way about doing this, then all of a sudden all of these folks benefit. Twitter can win with Moments, while Google wins with AMP," says Facemire. "It's not mutually exclusive."

AMP aims to improve content delivery across all mobile browsers and apps; the goal is not to serve as a defined container for articles within a specific ecosystem. Web pages built for AMP using HTML can be created using standard tools, and Google then accelerates pages via cache servers that are available to anyone for free.

However, AMP provides significantly simpler versions of what most people see on the Web today, and the early results (at least the first example provided by Twitter) look like a decade-old version of the Internet at best. Much of the rich media publishers promote alongside articles on their sites, such as interactive maps, data visualizations and various embedded content, won't work on AMP because of the JavaScript restrictions. AMP's Ubl says this limitation makes sense for the vast majority of articles because although "JavaScript is the core building block for advanced Web pages," it's not always required for static content such as headlines, text and images. Google also says these are the very early days, and it could develop more extensions to supplant restricted media components in the future.


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