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What Publishers Need to Know About Google AMP ➝

Joshua Benton, writing for Nieman Lab about Google’s AMP Project:

Yes, publishers don’t have to adopt it, and yes, it’s an open source project, and yes, the performance gains are very real and very substantial. But publishers can choose to adopt Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News too. The point is that this is another stop on the path to powerlessness for publishers — another case of tech companies setting the rules.

It’ll take time and evidence to see how much my reaction is emotional — the fears of an old webhead who remembers browser wars and ActiveX and the battles over open web standards — and how much is strategic. Because maybe it really does take a giant like Google to be the one to save publishing from itself.

I spent most of last week writing my iPhone 6s review, so I’m just now digging into AMP. At first glance, I don’t find anything particularly compelling about it — I highly doubt I’ll ever use it for Initial Charge. But if it means that the publishers who implement AMP will have faster loading webpages, then I’m glad Google is building this.

I do like the idea of restricting the use of HTML’s slowest elements and limiting JavaScript to almost zero, but I’m uncomfortable with the idea of AMP being, essentially, a fork of HTML. I would rather each individual web developer and publisher decide on their own to restrict use of slower elements instead of having an external entity make those decisions for them.

I also have a hard time understanding why AMP needs to offer replacements for all of the most common HTML tags — img, video, and audio would instead be amp-img, amp-video, and amp-audio.

Although, I’m currently in the process of familiarzing myself with Markdown and at some point plan to be writing with it full-time. So, I guess I’m not completely opposed to changing the way we write HTML. But Markdown is more of a language that uses an interpreter to be converted into HTML before publishing, whereas using AMP means publishing HTML which includes these AMP-specific tags.

In the end, I suppose I’d rather have web standards win out over this project. That is, unless Google plans to present AMP to standards bodies in an attempt to build it into a future version of HTML. But I get the feeling that this isn’t in Google’s plans.

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