Google AMP and four drawbacks

Godfather google has foisted yet another of its whims on us. As always, it is for our own good only. Because we are too stupid to design sites that look good in mobiles that load faster, Google has come to our rescue because everyone wants a faster web, right?

In theory there is nothing wrong with a faster web. As someone who has waited ages for some important page to load quite often, I do appreciate that it is important that sites load reasonably fast. But I don’t really think I’ve insisted on a site loading under two seconds or something or I’ll give up on what I want to know. Such a problem, in my view is for someone who is creating content which isn’t really compelling and giving someone time to change their mind will make them change their mind. If anything, if google is committed to a quality, it should not be too worried about people having time to chang their mind. But that is another issue. A fast loading site is definitely not a bad thing. But…

I don’t see why google needs to serve our content from the google site. First caching pages that people can view, which already was objected to by people, but was not such a big issue, because it is inconspicuous as a feature and offers visitors to still read our content if our site is experiencing problems. But with AMP, they have taken serving content created and owned by others to a whole new level.

A fan of AMP may argue that you can easily choose not to offer AMP pages. But here is the thing. If not using AMP pages means my site will suffer in search results – where Google has a monopoly, then it is like the Indian government saying Aadhaar is purely voluntary, except you can’t get your pension, your phone, your bank account or passport or pretty much anything needing documentation without it. But it is voluntary. It is nonsense. It is coercion. And the dishonesty makes it even worse than an openly autocratic model, because it conceals the act from those who will be impacted by it. Let us not mince words here.

So I have AMP installed on one of my sites. aamjanata.com

I have not perceived any dramatic improvement in speed. My site was already loading under two seconds without AMP. On mobiles. In fact, the site loads faster on mobiles than the AMP version. So other than the mobile search traffic that Google is holding me hostage with, what value is being added at all?

Here are the four biggest drawbacks I have experienced in using AMP:

Man In The Middle

I recently had an argument with someone who had agreed with me about Cloudflare being as good as a sanctioned MITM. The access is there. The intent is reassured by the reputation of the organization, but let us not pretend there aren’t ways of arm twisting organizations to bend rules for governments. Or, as we recently saw, Cloudlfare can indeed be insecure or be hacked. Yet this person happily has an AMP version of his site. Sadly, so do I. For the “traffic”. Of course, it is transparently served from google, but that is the point – my website is NOT google. But recently I’ve started wondering whether it is worth it to cater to Google’s arbitrary technologies because they’ve taken it upon themselves to set the standards. Do I really need that difference in mobile traffic enough to be okay with people seeing it on another site? That is what google is. It is another site. Not mine.

Speed, ironically

I have found that it is a far shorter learning curve to make a website perform well than it is to figure out how to serve good AMP content. Then figuring out the ads and what not. And all the plugins piled on to do all that adding bloat to the site. And even with the bloat, the main site being faster than the AMP pages. If Google’s priority is their openly claimed intention of making websites faster, Mobile search should have automatically served the actual website when it is faster than the AMP pages. So why doesn’t google do it?

Lost functionality

There are many interactive things that can be done on a website – prompting for enabling browser notifications, for example. Or, as in the case of aamjanata.com – it is a PWA, so a mobile visitor to the website can actually install the site on their phone as an app and even access cached pages viewed previously while offline – no way Google AMP can beat this speed, right? It is harder to subscribe visitors to newsletters and such from AMP pages. You can’t use interactive prompts. Unless you really put the subscribe form before the content (which would distract them from reading it to begin with) you have to pray really had that the reader reaches the end of the flat content.

Limited formatting

In the age of page builders, let me just say point blank. AMP pages are pathetic. Granted I haven’t been interested enough to maximize my geekery in trying out things, but that is also frankly because I didn’t find options that had me itching to try them out. It is a page I am building for Google. Not my readers and not to show off my content either. It doesn’t get more uninspiring than that, so well, that is that.

So I am an inch away from ditching AMP and uninstalling all the bloatware from my blog ASAP.

How do you handle these issues? Have you found any advantages to AMP? Have you decided to ditch AMP? What was your experience with the tradeoff in traffic? Do comment.

 

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