Web Performance Journal #03

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

This is a special edition of the Web Performance Journal focused on articles related to a single topic Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). In the last week there has been quite a bit of buzz about this new offering from Google and a proposed alternative called Content Performance Policies (CPP).

Google is always experimenting with ways to make the web faster with initiatives such as SPDY, which led to HTTP/2; QUIC, an alternative to TCP; and now AMP, a subset of HTML for building lightweight web pages. AMP was announced in October 2015 – so what caused the sudden rise in interest and articles this week? On February 24th Google began to display AMP-optimized content in the carousel for mobile searches. Do a search for a news item and a carousel with lightening bolts appears, indicating the content is AMP.

AMP - optimized content in the carousel for mobile searches

What this means is, when searching on a topic, the results presented in Top Stories will be AMP pages. This can be seen as a reward to those companies adopting this new technology, while other companies are punished for not being early adopters.

This has brought people out on both sides of the fence weighing the pros and cons of AMP, analyzing what makes it faster and proposing alternatives. Below is a summary of just a few of those articles:

The Definitive Guide to AMP from Rigor

An in-depth article covering the technology, its background, examples, as well as the pros and cons. This is a great place to start to learn more about AMP and potential consequences. The article touches lightly on the reduction in JavaScript and potential impact to analytics. I see this as a potentially much larger issue. Organizations have come to rely on third-party content for items such as analytics, advertising, social media, A/B testing, and real user monitoring, just to name a few. There are some vendors whose technology works with AMP, but for those that don’t, they will have to contact Google to report the problem – and in the meantime, the publisher has to decide between losing what may be a critical metric or improving page load times and search rankings on mobile devices.

How fast is AMP?

When a new technology appears touting impressive page load times I always like to understand how it does what it does and see examples. This article from Kezz Bracey provides just that. It starts with a background on AMP, but towards the bottom it dives into just how AMP is improving load times, and offers 11 different comparisons of pages with and without AMP. As with any technology, there are some with very impressive gains, while some show more modest gains, and even some cases where AMP is a little bit slower.

Alternative to AMP proposed

It’s always good to have choices. Tim Kadlec and Yoav Weis propose a standards-based alternative to AMP called Content Performance Policies (CPP). Tim writes about the reasoning behind CPP here. Instead of forcing developers to use a specific framework or set of tools, CPP will provide verification that certain performance best practices have been applied. These policies ensure that the user experience that was intended by the developer or content creator is maintained, and that third-party scripts behave in ways that do not negatively alter the intended experience.

It is still early days for AMP and CPP and I look forward to seeing how these stories unfold.

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