AMP Game Theory
2018-02-17Last modified on 2021-05-24
I've been thinking about implications of Google's AMP ambitions for web standards, and can't shake the This Is Getting Worse feeling.
So, time for some AMP GAME THEORY.
j/k but seriously here are my thoughts on AMP.
For background, smart people with similar misgivings have been writing critically about AMP, e.g.:
- AMPlified by Ethan Marcotte
- The Two Faces of AMP by Tim Kadlec
- The meaning of AMP by Jeremy Keith
- Scott Gilbertson: ‘Kill Google AMP Before It Kills the Web’ by John Gruber
With the announcement of AMP stories, AMP for email, and just-build-your-whole-site-in-AMP, it's clear that these concerns are being realised.
AMP is now a Google-driven metaplatform that spans the SERPs, web & email.
Google forked the web.
Why? To compete with Facebook. Most of what AMP offers are me-too FB/IG features. Instant Pages, Stories, Carousels...
It's clear G thinks the properties it controls (http://Google.com , http://Gmail.com ) need feature parity with FB's platforms: FB, IG, Messenger.
Reminds me of ex-Googler Steve Yegge's post: "[Google now] play the dangerous but easier game of using competitor activity as a proxy for what customers really need [...] They are stuck in me-too mode."
Ie: FB has it, customers must want it, we need it.
What does this mean for web standards?
Google is now using the letter of web standards to flagrantly violate the spirit of web standards: using its corporate dominance to achieve its corporate ends.
I'm not sure if AMP started with this intention or not, but it doesn't matter.
We've been here before with the web standards movement (webstandards.org). We have standards bodies for a reason: what's good for one corporation's short term competitive interests isn't necessarily good for the web's long term health.
It's clear that this is a lesson we'll need to re-learn again and again.
But it's worth acknowledging the way Google is hiding its blatant corporate interests behind its tech and its engineers is just gross.
Google's VPs were smart enough to dress up the initiative with enough buzzwords (neutral branding, "open source" etc) and people who genuinely care about the web.
This is ingenious because they can enlist their employee's passion for the web as well as volunteers to help with the technical implementation of their corporate strategy.
Get it? Volunteers helping implement the Google Web Fork (GWF?) so Google can chase Facebook.
G R O S S
Imagine if Microsoft implemented Microsoft Web Fork in the 90s/00s (they tried). Not ok then, not ok now.
Why? The web wasn't MS's then, & it's not Google's to re-implement now.
Who's looking after ActiveX content? Flash? Java?
AMP is going to be the mess we get to clean up.
Sure, AMP made a sorta-kinda sense when they wanted faster pages on mobile, even if they had to break urls, accessibility, native scrolling to get there (~ugh~).
Problem is, appeals to "The AMP team" seem futile, because the AMP team's domain *is purely technical implementation*.
It's the VP's that are pulling the strings here (presumably Dave Besbris).
But all we can do is appeal to the engineers involved.
The web isn't yours to remake, and the tools you’re providing your management with are too dangerous for the web you intend to help.
Whatever AMP started as, you’re now riding the bull of corporate self interest in the web standards china shop, and once you’ve moved on to another job & G's corporate goals change, we’re the ones who will be left to clean it up.
Don't be a kinder, gentler Microsoft. Reconsider.