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Can Google and Twitter speed up the mobile web while keeping it open? Meet AMP

As a beachhead against Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News, Google and Twitter launched an open source alliance on Wednesday to speed up the mobile web using existing technologies.

Google AMP
Image: Google

Traditional web pages have become very slow—and the mobile web is even worse.

On Wednesday in New York, Google in partnership with Twitter unveiled a developer preview of the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project—an open source protocol that takes advantage of pre-existing technologies to speed up the mobile web.

This is the open web counterpoint to similar proprietary systems like Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles.

There's a reason why the mobile web, sometimes referred to jokingly as the "world wide wait," is often frustratingly slow. On phones and tablets each website is downloaded through the browser as a discreet application, meaning the source code is called and refreshed each time a user loads a page. While HTML elements and content are sometimes cached in the browser, heavy elements like JavaScript are frequently rendered on each visit. And as news and media sites become more dependent on Javascript-based components and tracking tools, web sites can often slow to a crawl, particularly on mobile devices.

AMP is an attempt by Google, Twitter, and a number of publishing partners including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post , and Mashable to solve this problem and speed up content delivery. "The optimal speed [of content delivery to consumer devices] is instant," said Richard Gingras, Director of News and Social Products at Google.

While Facebook, Apple, Snapchat, and other tech firms have launched their own news and content platforms, AMP is not a siloed, proprietary product. Instead, AMP is a protocol and code library that any developer can use and deploy. AMP works by emphasizing content and pre-caching sites and URLs.

Media content like embedded tweets, audio and video is recognized via the protocol and pre-cached. Ads sold by publishers will also load quickly, but will not interrupt content as it's streamed to user devices.

AMP also works to prioritize content served from a mobile page. For example, say the internet is your refridgerator, said Chad Smolinski, Chief Product Officer at U.S. News & World Report, and you the user are reaching for the milk. AMP makes sure that the milk is placed in the front, not the back, and is easier to reach.

In addition to traditional publishing and media partners Google and Twitter are working with other web platforms that provide content and components, including Pinterest, WordPress.com, Chartbeat, Parse.ly, Adobe Analytics and LinkedIn. Because the platform is open source and built on contemporary web technology, the AMP framework is also not limited to news providers for implementation. The team hopes that AMP will be adopted by a large swath of web sites, and that in aggregate, AMP will eventually accelerate a vast majority of web content.

Google and Twitter have launched a sandbox URL at g.co/ampdemo, and the protocol will be available to developers in a Github repository later this year.

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About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

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