What is AMP and is it a game changer for mobile content?

The AMP project is designed to improve the mobile web. We look at what AMP can do, and the potential of the technology.

What is AMP and who's behind it?

By now, you have probably noticed the little lighting bolt icon appearing alongisde stories when you Google or browse Facebook from your phone. That'll be AMP. 

AMP is the result of an 'open source' collaboration between some giant tech (Google, Twitter, Adobe, comScore), ad (Adsense, Outbrain, Taboola) and publishing (CNN, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Buzzfeed, Huff Post) companies.

AMP pages from BBC News displayed on Google

AMP is for Accelerated Mobile Pages and the concept is really simple: Stripping out all of the overblown stuff on a web page to reduce page load times and dramatically improve performance, with some usability features thrown in for good measure.

That means the formatting of the page is really simple and clean, there are no effects and text, images and video content are served and handled in a standardised form. Irritating pop up ads can't get in the way of reading the content on an AMP page and they load almost immediately, which is an attractive proposition.

Is AMP for everyone?

The good news is that AMP pages are a significant experience improvement on standard web pages served on mobile devices. It begs the question, shouldn't all web pages be this way? 

The problem is, in this early form with so much code stripped out, there's no room for type of functionality that enables you to pick products from an ecommerce store or even open a menu, so in practical terms there's a long way to go.

What Google and others have to say about AMP (Youtube)

Whilst everyone can in theory publish using AMP from the off, there is quite a bit of technical knowhow to convert a page for AMP, although plugins for WordPress and Drupal are on the way to get you some of the way. 

The main driver for developing the technology in the first place seems to be to increase ad revenue, which is mainly a benefit for the huge publishing platforms and advertisers - it's no coincidence that handling advertising on the page is part of the first set of standards.

Where is AMP headed?

The strangest thing about AMP, at least initially, is that pages aren't linked and looped like normal web pages and there are no menus. Once you land on an article, swiping takes you to seemingly unrelated articles by the same publisher and, at least at the moment, there are only a few occasional related articles to hop to next.

Before AMP: Sure the film is good, but the ads get in the way of the content (NME)

The enormous limitations in function point to AMP being a halfway house on the way to creating a set of standards that enable us to have all the funky candy we want from a web page without the huge performance overhead of loading huge media and effects files. 

I don't think AMP will stop with mobile either - this kind of technology is the key to enabling the majority of the planet, perhaps even that 3% of humanity that Facebook's ARIES project doesn't aim to reach, to get online and benefit from the communication and knowledge the web has to offer.