As Antitrust Pressure Mounts, Google to Pull Back Benefit to News Sites That Adopted Its Preferred Mobile Technology
By Adrianne Jeffries
Four years after offering special placement in a “top stories carousel” in search results to entice publishers to use a format it created for mobile pages, called AMP, Google announced last week that it will end that preferential treatment in the spring.
“We will prioritize pages with great page experience, whether implemented using AMP or any other web technology, as we rank the results,” Google said in a blog post.
The company had indicated in 2018 that it would drop the preference eventually. Last week’s announcement of a concrete timeline comes less than a month after the Department of Justice called Google a “monopoly gatekeeper to the internet” in a lawsuit alleging antitrust violations and as pressure mounts on officials in the European Union, which has already fined Google more than $9 billion for antitrust violations.
“I did always think AMP posed antitrust concerns,” said Sally Hubbard, author of the book “Monopolies Suck” and an antitrust expert with the Open Markets Institute. “It’s, ‘If you want to show up on the top of the search results, you have to play by our rules, you have to use AMP.’ ”
Google spokesperson Meghann Farnsworth did not address the timing of the change but said AMP is not dead, saying the company is “fully committed to AMP as a technology.”
She said AMP continues to be required for certain features that “are not technically possible” without it, such as “swipe to visit” in Google Images, and that it’s “preferred” in the “for you” feed in Google’s news reading app, Google Discover.
Whatever prompted the timing of the change, some news sites are relieved that they won’t have to keep using Google’s preferred mobile standard.
“We are encouraged to see Google beginning to outline a path away from AMP,” Robin Berjon, head of data governance at The New York Times, said in a written statement in response to questions from The Markup. “It’s important Google addresses the core challenge with the format, so that it is no…