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How to fight back against Google AMP

How to fight back against Google AMP
How to fight back against Google AMP

There’s a popular thread on Hacker News with lots of people complaining about how Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is ruining their mobile web experience. Here’s what’s wrong with using Google AMP.

This week I also got two AMP links sent to me via Telegram and to see those Google URLs replacing unique domain names made me a bit sad on behalf of the owners of those sites. As a site owner myself, it feels like sovereignty of a website being taken away.

Other than people sharing links with me, I rarely encounter AMP in the wild. It is possible to restrict Google AMP from your life both as a web user and as a web developer. Here’s how you can fight back against Google AMP.

Other search engines such as Qwant and DuckDuckGo don’t rank AMP sites. So taking the step of switching from Google search to a more ethical choice removes most of the AMP touch points you might have.

It’s simple to switch the default search engine in your browser of choice. You can do it in the browser settings directly. Anything other than Google will get you in the no-AMP territory.

But now you might say all those non-AMP websites you visit are full of advertising, distractions and are slow to load? There’s a solution for that too.

Don’t use the Chrome browser

Firefox is a great browser alternative that is worth a try. Just visiting a site with Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection on makes a faster and less intrusive web. It’s a built-in blocker of intrusive ads and invisible scripts.

Firefox also has a Reader Mode so any site can be clutter-free even without AMP. And these features work both on Firefox for desktop and Firefox for mobile. Here’s how the Reader View looks like in Firefox Preview for Android:

Don’t use AMP on your own sites

Publishers and other site owners feel forced to use AMP as they fear that they’ll lose Google visibility and traffic without it. These are the forces some publishers cannot resist until more people stop using Google Chrome and search.

You as a site owner or developer are a different case. I like the idea of a faster and distraction-free web but I don’t like the idea of web being controlled and molded by one company. Especially not one that is the largest advertising company in the world.

This is the Googled-web Google wants to see you develop. The web “delivered by Google”. Your site being integrated with all the other cool Google products such as Analytics and AdSense.

I enjoy visiting sites created by real people. The AMP pages are more boring, less diverse, less competitive, less functional and have less personality.

Why are so many sites slow in the first place?

The main reason AMP exists is that the sites are slow to load. But why are the sites slow to load in the first place? They feature many unnecessary third-party elements that do nothing for the user experience other than slow it all down.

Google themselves will point the finger at their own analytics and ads if you use their webpage speed tests to measure the performance of your site. They even provide guides on how to make third-party resources less slow.

Analytics scripts, advertising scripts, social media scripts and so much more junk. It is normal to visit a site and the majority of it is composed of unnecessary elements that you don’t see. This is why the web is so much faster with Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection or with an adblocker.

Firefox blocks almost 30 different trackers on a single page of Wired. It also blocks the auto-play of video and audio. This is about 30% of the total page weight. It’s important to note that Wired still gets to display their banners for people to subscribe to the magazine.

As a reader, you don’t really see any difference at all in the article that you’re reading. All this content that they try to load and that is blocked by Firefox is not useful to you.

Treat the cause: Third-party requests slow down the web

Here are some stats:

  • 94% of sites include at least one third-party resource
  • 76% issue a request to an analytics domain
  • 56% include at least one ad resource
  • Median page requests content from 9 unique third-party domains
  • Google owns 7 of the top 10 most popular third-party calls

And what are these calls that Google owns? They’re things such as Google Analytics, Google Fonts and Google’s DoubleClick advertising scripts.

Most popular third-party requests

So you can see why there must be some kind of internal struggle at Google. They understand the value of a faster web but they also cannot go after the main cause of the slow web. And this is how technology such as AMP gets invented and makes things worse.

We should be treating the cause of this slow web disease instead.

How to make your sites faster than AMP without using AMP

It’s possible to make your site faster than an AMP site without using AMP. You need to put the speed as the priority when developing.

  • Restrict unnecessary elements. Understand every request your site is making and consider how useful they are. Do those flashing and distracting calls-to-action actually make a difference to the goals you have or are they simply annoying 99% of people that visit your site? Do you really need auto-playing videos?
  • Restrict third-party connections and scripts. Do you actually need Google fonts? Do you need the official social media share buttons? Do you need to collect all that behavioral data that you may never look at? There are better and lighter solutions for each of these.
  • Lazy load images and videos. There’s simply no reason to load your full page and everything on it as soon as a visitor enters your site. Lazy loading only loads images in the browser’s view and the rest only as the visitor scrolls down the page.

By doing this your original site will load faster than the AMP sites. And the web experience will be better, more open and more diverse to everyone.