Standardizing lessons learned from AMP


Update May 28, 2020: Related Google Search announcement
Update May 21, 2019: One-year status update

For over two years, AMP has been a leading format for creating consistently excellent user experiences on the web, and Google continues to invest strongly in it as our well-lit path to achieving a user-first web. We’ve long believed that the goal of a user-first web can be built in many ways, but, until we began working on AMP, knowing exactly what that meant and how it could be verified was a challenge. Based on what we learned from AMP, we now feel ready to take the next step and work to support more instant-loading content not based on AMP technology in areas of Google Search designed for this, like the Top Stories carousel. This content will need to follow a set of future web standards and meet a set of objective performance and user experience criteria to be eligible.

The origins and development of AMP

We started working on AMP because we were seeing the mobile web feel clunky and slow, falling behind the tightly-integrated, highly-optimized user experiences that walled garden platforms can offer. Yet we also knew there wasn’t a fundamental technology problem: you could build great experiences on the web with the right knowledge, resources, and management support. Thus we set out to create a framework that would provide a well-lit path to building great web-based experiences: AMP would be well documented, easily deployable, validatable, and opinionated about user-first principles.

AMP has seen fast development as an open source project with weekly releases and constant adjustment to publisher and user feedback. The lessons learned in 2+ years of iteration based on the extensible web are ones we hope will be useful in informing the web standards process. Credit goes to Tim Kadlec and Yoav Weiss for kicking off the Content Performance Policy idea in 2016 and convincing us that we should go down this path. This idea has now morphed into the Feature Policies and become a real thing that will help with AMP-like performance guarantees without relying on AMP going forward.

We feel that the mission underlying AMP is more important than ever before and Google will continue to invest strongly in developing AMP. Current focus areas of investment are: engaging storytelling experiences with AMP Stories, dynamic email, JS in AMP, pushing the boundaries of e-commerce on the web, and developing additional deep integrations between platforms and content into Google Search.

Standardizing lessons learned

The standardization work motivated by AMP is well under way through various WICG projects. Google’s goal is to extend support in features like the Top Stories carousel to AMP-like content that (1) meets a set of performance and user experience criteria and (2) implements a set of new web standards. Some of the proposed standards in the critical path are Feature Policy, Web Packaging, iframe promotion, Performance Timeline, and Paint Timing. Equally important, the Chrome team last year released the Chrome User Experience report. Its underlying data provides, for the first time, web-wide real world measurements for performance and user experience.

In January we announced that we plan to use Web Packaging as recommended by the W3C TAG finding for providing privacy preserving pre-loading together with being able to serve AMP content under the publisher URLs. We’re super excited about Web Packaging because it isn’t AMP-specific technology, so we’ll be able to use it for instant-loading of all packaged web content!

Features like the Top Stories Carousel in Google Search rely on AMP’s embeddability features. For example, it uses privacy-preserving pre-rendering; AMP-based throttling of CPU, RAM and bandwidth usage; and built-in container-embed-communication. We now feel confident that with iframe performance isolation through site isolation or cooperative multitasking, web packaging, Feature Policies, iframe promotion, and a document opt-in, it’ll be possible to make such features available to non-AMP web content that implements those standards.

That’s a lot to keep track of, so we plan to keep this page updated regularly to track progress. While we fully intend to make these changes in Google Search, as with any Google Search feature they will undergo experimentation and user testing and only launch if results are positive for users. It is hard to estimate when these changes will roll out as it depends on future progress of standardization and browser implementations. Achieving consensus between the community and implementers is an important part of the standardization process, which may require changes to this plan.

In summary: We are taking what we learned from AMP, and are working on web standards that will allow instant loading for non-AMP web content. We hope this work will also unlock AMP-like embeddability that powers Google Search features like the Top Stories carousel. Meanwhile, AMP will be Google’s well-lit path to creating great user experiences on the web. It will be just one of many choices, but it will be the one we recommend. We will continue to invest heavily in AMP. A key example of how we continue to innovate on user experience on the web are AMP Stories and we hope to provide insights to future web standards along that way.

I and the rest of the AMP team are incredibly excited about the future of the open web and can’t wait to see what all of y’all will be building! #teamweb

Posted by Malte Ubl, Tech Lead for the AMP Project at Google.