I Have Beef With Accelerated Mobile Pages

Ben Halpern on April 11, 2018

I am not the first person to make a mini-rant about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). But it's a conversation we probably shouldn't move off of any t... [Read Full]
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I think I disagree about Google being a big proponent of the open web. This may have been true at one time, but now they do very little to help this, and have done many things to detract from it. They show very little concern for user's privacy, and are strongly in favour of tracking and profiling.

They entered into the browser space with Chrome by abusing their monopoly position in search. Their own products appear to work better in Chrome than other browsers.

AMP is another attempt at vertical integration by Google. Just like all of their other products they aren't trying to be nice, they're just trying to capture more market share. Instead of improving existing offerings they continue to experiment and capture more users. Given the extent of the market coverage they already have, this is bad. Their influence on the web is already too extreme.

At this point it's completely irrelevant what AMP is actually solving, giving any more control to Google is just bad. If they actually wanted to help they could easily fund committees and open standards for most of the stuff they do. But they don't.

 

I guess I'd say that Google doesn't really seem like a monolith, so I wouldn't want to paint them with to broad a brush. But yeah, your sentiment is more or less what I'm thinking.

I can't help but treat the relationship as a complicated one. There seem to be other tech giants with more clearly parasitic positions. (Or maybe not).

 

There's no doubt that Google has done a lot of positive things for the net. They definitely have divisions which do more good than harm.

Though think about their overall position regarding their users: we are their product, and they treat us as such. Consider a few dominant things that they could easily change if they were inclined to support users:

  • Standing up against automatic content-filtering on sites like YouTube. Google knows full well their Content-ID system does not work well.
  • Encrypted email on GMail. Popular web clients have been a constant road-block to end-to-end encryption.
  • Unlocked Android OS. They provide an OS that allows vendors to lock-out users and install permanent questionable software on the devices.
  • Disconnection of profiles across google services, protecting user privacy.
  • Stopping tracking your every move on your phone with location services.
  • They remain relatively silent on net neutrality -- AMP is something that would definitely benefit from a lack of net neutrality.
  • They don't actively fight against DMCA take-down requests, they have no problem with supporting censorship in China.

Perhaps much of this is political, and you may disagree with the issues. It nonetheless paints a picture of people being treated as a commodity rather than as valued partners.

Even if you ignore this aspect, from a business standpoint, the company has simply grown too large. They have more control than Microsoft did when the world was against them. It could be argued they have even more control than Standard Oil did when the US wrote new laws to deal with it.

" ... they have no problem with supporting censorship in China ..."

Care to elaborate on that?

"Google argued that it could play a role more useful to the cause of free speech by participating in China's IT industry than by refusing to comply and being denied admission to the mainland Chinese market. "While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission," a statement said.[44]

A US PBS analysis reported clear differences between results returned for controversial keywords by the censored and uncensored search engines.[45] Google set up computer systems inside China that try to access Web sites outside the country. If a site is inaccessible (e.g., because of the Golden Shield Project), then it was added to Google China's blacklist.[46]

In June 2006 Google co-founder Sergey Brin was quoted as saying that virtually all of Google's customers in China were using the non-censored version of their website.[47]"

-- source: your wiki link

-- It seems that most of the flak google china got was from Americans that had a problem with google trying to cooperate with the Chinese government... But in all honesty after reading the whole wiki article, it seems the Chinese government is censoring things, not google. Who knew?

 

One way I like to think about google is currently doing is ask myself:

"What if Apple/Microsoft/Facebook had all the prowess Google currently has?"

It can be easy to forget how well a company the size of Google is trying to remain as positive as much as possible.

I'm not here to defend Google (I hate them for some of their tactics), but looking at the bigger picture helps.

At this point it's completely irrelevant what AMP is actually solving, giving any more control to Google is just bad.

In parts of the world where individuals sit behind 500+ mbps fibre connections, AMP might seem irrelevant, and rather come off as a monopolistic approach by a data-hogging company.

To the ordinary internet user in a remote somewhere, AMP is relevant.

If they actually wanted to help they could easily fund committees and open standards for most of the stuff they do

As if they don't already do this?

Considering some of the points you raised here (dev.to/mortoray/comment/309j), I keep wondering.

Unlocked Android OS. They provide an OS that allows vendors to lock-out users and install permanent questionable software on the devices.

How? Have we forgotten Android is open source? Android is Open Source. How can Google police God-knows-how-many vendors using the Open Source of Android to prevent lock-ins?

Just how? I hear many blaming Google every single minute of the trash vendors do with Android Open Source. The thing, is, again, I repeat, Open Source. If a vendor decides to place a million bloatware on the phone, that's none of Google's business. It would be foolish on Google's part to even dream of making it their business.

Want a bloatless Android to use? Into a non-locked in Android OS? Why not try the many options out there that come with almost barebone Android?

Imagine what would happen if iOS is made Open Source for 1 second?

Disconnection of profiles across google services, protecting user privacy.

Again, how? I should have 1 google account, but 16 different profiles? And how does having a multitude of different profiles across google services 'protecting of user privacy'?

The last I checked, I'm onto over 20 different Google services (yeah, I've sold my life to them, sad me), and I can't think for a second, having to manage all those services independently.

So I change my name on Maps, and then my 19+ remaining profiles show my previous name?

How is this supposed to work in the first place, and how would that protect user privacy? Is rather having a centralized profile where you can manage all the various aspect of the services what would improve privacy?

I'm not sure how "Disconnection of profiles across google services" would in any way = "protecting user privacy"

Stopping tracking your every move on your phone with location services.

What happened to users taking control of their devices? Going into settings to flip off high accuracy GPS isn't enough?

As users, why do we always offset the part we can play onto the service providers?

I don't turn off my GPS, then I want Google to stop tracking my every move? How does that work?

As evil as Google might seem to be, with their seemingly self-centered approach, I wouldn't want whatever they do today, to have been in the hands of Apple or Facebook.

 

I've seen that AMP page was 100% analyzed by google.. That's another privacy problem.

 

I've always tried to make websites destined for the open public as lightweight/accessible as possible.

I've found a few blogs and news sources that have been following the same logic, and I've noticed that it's easier and easier to find said websites, so it's a real breeze.

One of the very latest findings I discovered was this talk (article), which actually is on the subject of the heavy/closed Internet.

Some of my websites following accessibility rules are my blog and my portfolio.

 
 

I may write some list of "lightweight and interesting websites", which would include blogs, projects and more.

It'd be nice to get some other ideas tho.

If anyone have some lightweight and interesting website they'd like to share, feel free to add !

Note that "interesting" is purely subjective. Post what you think is interesting, and I'll check it out !

edit: Darn, that would make a good post, let me create one right now
edit 2: Here we go.

 

I was deeply involved (the main dev) on an AMP implementation. The experience raised an awful lot of questions about the effect AMP has on the open web. While doing the implementation I was invited to Google to go to one of their workshops on it and was able to ask the engineers point blank about this exact thing and they pretty much danced around the topic.

AMP is one of those technologies that if I was ever asked to implement again I would take a very strong stance against doing. It's bad for search, it's bad for those with fewer resources to buy into it, and it's bad for the open web as a whole.

The lessons AMP provides as a technology (speed, performance, etc.) can all be easily applied without Google's help.

 

I think Google Search and Ads have been on autopilot for a long time. No one seems to have any clear ideas to improve the core business and tinkering is too dangerous. They only seem to change either business when some new spam tactic fundamentally breaks the whole ecosystem.

At this point I've observed the DDG/Yandex partnership to have a similar index size and traffic depending on your target audience. Google Search is no longer such a firm monopoly.

Google Ads is harder to work around because Marketing Agencies are a notorious PITA to work with. Google also may have obtained exclusivity agreements.

 

Hey Ben! Just sliding by to say maybe you can credit Alex Norris, the creator of the web comic which you made use of in your post? :) => twitter.com/dorrismccomics

Great post! I really hope AMP does not become the mobile web.

 

Good call. Added credit. I had the mindset of that being almost a meme. Didn't give that enough thought.

 

I think Google should be redirecting to the canonical URL when a desktop user is detected. Also every share button on your site should be sharing the canonical URL.

 

Yes! I think that's one of the main reasons why we all dislike AMP. I'm sure there are very fine people working on it (I can't use that sentence anymore!) but the canonical URL should be the URL of the website's article, not the amp version of it

 

Back in the good old days, when Google wasn't evil and Microsoft were, we'd call these practises "Embrace and Extend". The only worse thing than Microsoft not using an op[en standard was when it started to, because you knew they'd do something subtly different, or require some extension, or ...

Google have been doing this for a while with email. They started out by having IMAP support, but it wasn't quite the same IMAP as the one in the RFC. Then they required their own authentication technologies instead of the ones the IETF produced. Then they turned off IMAP by default, saying it was only for mobile anyway, and smartphones could use their gmail app.

Then DMARC came along, entirely outside of the IETF, and everyone needed to do it because otherwise Google (and a few other huge providers) wouldn't accept your mail anymore. Never mind that mailing lists broke. They had Google Groups for that kind of thing.

Now they're busy telling us how we have to authenticate mail servers; only they're driving this one through the IETF. Mid-sized providers all use DANE already, but Google would prefer not to, so everyone will have to do something different.

With XMPP, they did much the same, only it was much more violent - there were no other huge providers using XMPP, so they just stopped it working one day.

Google's mission is to organise the world's information; but their choice of how to go about it involves controlling that information.

 

Thanks for this - I appreciate you bringing up the scourge that is AMP (triggered)!

"We" (developers) can solve the problem but sadly "we" don't control all the websites. Corporations who own many of the existing large sites have different drivers beyond user experience i.e. profit and throwing in 50 odd scripts to bolster profit is where their heads are at over user experience which is where AMP comes in - honestly or not.

Hopefully over time, as website profit models shift away from advertising (hey, even Zuck mentioned the possibility of a paid version of facebook recently), user experience will get back to number one.

Then AMP will be irrelevant.

🤞

 

I'm not using any google products anymore. There is a open letter about this.

 
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