Google AMP: what difference does it make to mobile performance?

September 19 2018 By Posted in Expertise

The title of this post was going to be “AMP pros and cons”, but that might have taken a turn for the political. Instead, here’s a simplified view of AMP technical advantages and constraints, focusing on the performance delivered to end users.

 

Optimization for better mobile performance

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project promises near-instantaneous, user-friendly display of mobile web pages. How does it do this? By providing the language (AMP HTML) and the AMP JS library, which comes with the AMP Validator. The AMP approach means limiting HTML and CSS capabilities, doing away with standard JavaScript, and allowing only the dynamic components that are provided by AMP.

For these reasons we could call AMP a proprietary optimization package – even if it is “open source” – because

  • it is based on ordinary optimization techniques but
  • restricts well-known industry-standard building blocks
  • in favor of a special language and embedded features devised specifically for AMP.

Visitors to “AMP’d up” mobile pages will find they are speedier than unoptimized mobile pages, there’s no disputing that. On the other hand, any mobile page can be speedy if it is well optimized, even without AMP.

The basics are the same: by limiting the number of network requests, reducing page size, and streamlining rendering, end users see a meaningful display faster. Very fine response times and performance can be achieved without AMP, and with more artistic leeway.

 

Google AMP

 

Caching for faster mobile web pages

Pages built with AMP HTML and AMP JS can be disseminated by Google AMP Cache for free after being validated with the built-in validator. Just like any CDN, the Google AMP Cache undeniably offers significant benefits in terms of page speed. To be eligible, the page has to be marked up according to AMP HTML specification, without resorting to external resources.

Basically, the nice thing about Google AMP Cache for AMP page owners is that it’s free of charge. Since we cannot see into the future, there’s no telling how long this service will remain free. At present, it is an effective and cost-free way of speeding up AMP-optimized content to mobile devices. End users will see benefits, depending on location.

End-user benefits of mobile page rankings

As stated above, this post is mainly interested in AMP and mobile web performance with respect to the end user’s experience. If we were addressing, say, open web advocates, mobile web developers and designers, or even analytics or ad providers, this post would be quite different.

AMP-optimized mobile web pages or non-AMP optimized mobile web pages? End users experience faster performance either way. Similarly, some end users might enjoy fast access to AMP pages that are served by Google AMP Cache. But mobile pages served from any other CDN are speedy, too.

Lastly, end users may or may not appreciate the preference that AMP pages seem to enjoy in Google and Bing search results. While mobile page rankings take the loading time and mobile compatibility of all web pages into account, AMP-optimized pages specifically appear to be favored by the algorithms of these two search engines. The benefit to end users is not clear.

 

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