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Google Unveils 'AMP' -- Its Answer to Facebook's Instant Articles

Fast! Confusing!

Just like Facebook, Google says it wants to speed up mobile Web browsing. So here’s the search giant’s solution: An open source project with a difficult name that’s supposed to make it easy to read stuff on your phone.

Re/code readers learned about Google’s “Accelerated Mobile Pages” project last month, and anyone who has been on Twitter this morning has been able to get more details, due to a strange approach to press conference/embargoes that Google has employed. So we won’t belabor it here.

But here are a few bullet points to keep in mind:

  • Google’s new format, which is supposed to work on multiple platforms and is supported by multiple publishers*, is live this morning, but is also in preview mode. This means you can find it by going to this weird url or if a publisher links to a page using it, but if you are using good ‘ol plain Google on your phone and you get a search result from a publisher that’s using the format, you might see an extra-speedy article. If this makes sense to you, you work at Google.
  • Unlike mobile publishing projects launched by Facebook, Apple and Snapchat, this one doesn’t directly generate revenue for Google — it won’t take a cut from ad revenue generated when people read a story using the new format.** “This is a deal-less environment. There are no relationships here,” Google News head Richard Gringras said at the event this morning.
  • On the other hand! In a demo of how its speedy articles might appear in search results down the road, Google showed off a carousel feature, highlighting articles from publishers that use the new format. So will Google reserve that theoretical space — which should be worth a lot to the people who theoretically occupy it — solely for publishers who use the new format? Not exactly, Gringras said. “We will not privilege a specific format.” But Google already rewards publishers whose pages load quickly, he said. So do the math.

Okay. So what does this mean for you, a reader looking at something on your phone? Not much, except things should go faster, Google insists.

Here’s a (theoretical) demo of how that might play out, via Nuzzel, a news discovery app that will start using the format. Nuzzel CEO Jonathan Abrams says Web pages that use AMP could load in half a second in his app, down from an average of three seconds. His developers have added a little lightning bolt to emphasize the speed, just for giggles:

Nuzzel Google Instant Article AMP

* Vox Media, which owns this site, is participating in this one.
** Unless, of course, Google is already getting paid to serve that ad, in which case it gets its normal cut. This is a good thing for Google and, many people say, one of the reasons Google is pushing this idea.

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