San Francisco, California

Taking shortcuts

Owen Willaims on how Google is tightening its grip on the web with AMP:

To be clear, the concept behind AMP isn’t a problem. In fact, it’s fundamentally a good idea. Why shouldn’t mobile users have access to faster-loading, stripped-down web pages? The problem is that speed comes with a major catch.

AMP strips publishers of full autonomy and control over their content. Hosted AMP pages obfuscate the source of what you’re reading, removes some control over your own brand, and essentially allows Google to use your content for free under the guise of making the web better. It hides your URL in favor of a Google.com-hosted version.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think AMP is evil. But I think that folks wanting to take shortcuts to appease a single platform like Google kinda sort of is evil. Although Google might have 92% market share of the search market they are not the web. As unlikely as it seems today there will be a future web where Google no longer holds any power, its dominant position overthrown by another platform.

We must remember that by building a website for one company and one platform for the sake of analytics and eyeballs will provide only short term gains. There are more important things in this world than impressions and clicks, and there is something important we must sacrifice to the Big G in order to get them.

To make a website fast and performant, to make a website accessible and easy to read, to make a website kind— it all takes effort and skill. It is only possible to build a great website by building it the long, hard stupid way. There are no shortcuts. There is no npm install good-website and every effort to cut corners will always come back to bite us in the ass.

Owen continues:

...I’m worried that these concerns are too late and that the damage AMP has done to the web is already too extensive. As an independent publisher running my own blog outside of this column on OneZero, I can’t avoid AMP, because I’ll be drowned in Google’s opaque search algorithms and ignored entirely by products like Google News.

Here’s my hot take on this: fuck the algorithm, fuck the impressions, and fuck the king. I would rather trade those benefits and burn my website to the ground than be under the boot and heel of some giant, uncaring corporation.

Because despite what they’d like you to believe, the web is bigger than Google, more important than Google. And we can do better.