Google Is Tightening Its Grip on Your Website
A new AMP update shows how the speed-boosting technology can infiltrate every corner of the internet
Almost five years ago, Google debuted a splashy new project called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) that promised to speed up load times on websites accessed via phone. Fast-forward to today, and AMP has grown into something much more ambitious: Earlier this month, Google rolled out a new feature that allows AMP to use server-side rendering (SSR), boosting performance for sites that adopt the technology across their entire domain.
The overall AMP project launched with a focus on news publishers. They’re asked to create a second, lightweight version of their articles; these versions surface in Google Search and load relatively quickly on mobile devices. In return, Google raises the search-results ranking of pages that use AMP, providing an influx of free traffic. Google itself even hosts “approved” AMP pages for publishers accepted into Google News, circumventing publishers’ websites entirely unless users click through on a separate URL that appears at the top of a page. AMP adoption is also the only way to gain access to Google’s Discover feed, which features articles on the page that appears when you open a new tab in the Chrome browser, potentially driving hundreds of thousands of views if the algorithm chooses your content.
At first, AMP specifically targeted mobile devices, but it has begun quietly experimenting with desktop sites as well. Publishers may soon find it’s best to enable AMP across their entire domains, putting more eggs in Google’s basket. Everything’s come full circle with the new SSR functionality — why not just put your whole website into the format, right?
To be clear, the concept behind AMP isn’t a problem. In fact, it’s fundamentally a good idea. Why shouldn’t mobile users have access to faster-loading, stripped-down web pages? The problem is that speed comes with a major catch.
AMP strips publishers of full autonomy and control over their content. Hosted AMP pages obfuscate the source of what you’re reading, removes some control over your own brand, and essentially allows Google to use your content for free under the…