Sat, Jan 07, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Some publishers not buying Google’s helpful intentions

Google, saying it wants to speed up its Accelerated Mobile Pages service, stores copies of publishers’ pages and serves them from its own Internet network, so the address bar at the top of the page displays google.com and not the publisher’s address

By Daisuke Wakabayashi  /  NY Times news service, SAN FRANCISCO

Illustration: Kevin Sheu

Last month, Federico Viticci, who runs MacStories, a news Web site devoted to Apple and its products, made a change in how the site publishes articles for mobile gadgets. MacStories, he declared, would no longer support a Google-backed method for faster loading of mobile Web pages, called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

Viticci said MacStories’ pages loaded quickly without Google’s help.

He also did not like the idea of Google obscuring his site’s links — with AMP, they read google.com instead of macstories.net — in the interest of expediency.

“Feels good” to no longer use the Google standard, Viticci wrote on Twitter.

Viticci’s experience underscores the ambivalent relationship some Web publishers have developed with what was supposed to be Google’s great boon for mobile publishing. When Google introduced AMP, in October 2015, it said the new format would help publishers with one of their biggest headaches on smartphones: Browsing mobile Web sites was so frustratingly slow that many smartphone users abandoned pages before they opened.

AMP has since delivered on its promise of faster mobile Web pages. Even so, publishers — of smaller sites, especially, or individual bloggers — are beginning to worry about giving too much control to Google in exchange for zippier Web pages. In addition, Google’s approach to AMP has rankled some critics already suspicious of the company’s outsize influence on the Internet.

Much of the publishers’ unease is rooted in Google’s presentation of AMP stories, which appear as if they are Google articles. That is because Google, to speed up AMP, stores copies of publishers’ pages and serves them from its own Internet network. So when a reader clicks an AMP link, the address bar at the top of the page displays google.com instead of the actual Web address from the publisher.

“It looks like a Google story,” said Danny Sullivan, founding editor of Search Engine Land, a Web search news site. “That’s part of the reason why you’re getting the nervousness from some of these publishers.”

Google said that it had designed AMP to prioritize speed and that it wanted to help — not harm — publishers, who get full accounting of traffic, data and advertising revenue. Publishers also retain control of their content and design.

Google said serving up articles from its own Internet network was the best way it knew to achieve the AMP speeds, which are as much as four times faster than a regular mobile Web page.

“We always try to present the content that is the best experience,” said David Besbris, Google’s vice president of engineering.

Google started AMP in 2015 because it worried that competitors such as Facebook were drawing Web surfers inside their networks with faster-loading articles and keeping them there. For Google, those rival sites were siphoning people away from the open Internet, where the search company — which created the Internet’s most valuable property by organizing the expanse of the World Wide Web — typically operates.

Now articles that use AMP appear prominently in Google search results on mobile devices. A Google search for US president-elect Donald Trump on a smartphone brings back a horizontal carousel of articles from media outlets such as Slate and the Wall Street Journal at the top of the page. If someone clicks the first story in the carousel, he or she is moved into a browser and can swipe instantly from one story to another without leaving Google’s network.

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