Killing AMP

I have recently removed AMP support from my photography website. If you never heard of AMP you probably don’t care much and this article doesn’t apply to you, but for what it’s worth: AMP websites are extremely stripped down versions of normal websites that do not support a lot of JavaScript (JS).

This may make sense for content-heavy news websites that are completely overloaded with scripts, autoplaying video, trackers, analytics, modal “subscribe here!” overlays and whatnot (ie. all the stuff we block with ad blockers on desktop browsers). My website is nothing like that, however.

At the same time, the stripped feature set of AMP makes a pleasing presentation of image galleries rather difficult on a photography website, of course. So that’s one of the reasons why I removed it.

Problems with AMP

Some of the problems I see with AMP:

  • The AMP version of each and every post is a separate URL (for example, with the suffix /amp/). Making changes to any URL requires not one, but two redirects to the new content.
  • If you deactivate AMP altogether, you break all existing links to AMP content on your site. Yikes!
  • Critics of AMP say that it is essentially a “lock in” that only benefits Google, and the presentation of news websites in Google’s “news carousel”
  • When visitors are served the AMP version of a website, it’s hard for them to tell that they’re not seeing the full site, but a stripped down version of the page/site that may be missing key content (such as a gallery’s thumbnail grid, or other script-based content, like a panorama photo viewer, etc. etc.). It’s the year 2017 – do I really want to begin adding “if you don’t see this and that then please click here” to my blog posts and site pages? Nope!
  • Google serves AMP content through their own CDN, which obscures the original content’s source URL. I’d like my visitors to see that they’re on MY site, and not on “cdn.ampproject.org” (or whatever)

And then along came Twitter, and began to send visitors to the AMP version of my stuff from their mobile app (the linked blog post is from October 2015, but they did not begin to use AMP links, at least in their iOS app, until last month or so).

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back – I made the decision to give up on AMP entirely. My site’s theme is already responsive – it will render just fine on mobile. There’s no reason for Twitter to make that determination for my visitors, and redirect them to a stripped down version of the site that wasn’t meant for them to see when I share a link to my content on Twitter. When I manually paste a link to abc.xyz/article it should NOT redirect to abc.xyz/article/amp/ – what the hell? How about giving users a choice, by adding a configuration switch “Prefer AMP links <on/off>”, Twitter?

Anyway – on image-heavy sites like my photography site in particular, the issue and bottleneck are the photos, not scripts and styling. I dare say that my site is rather slim – I’m not even using Google Analytics. If a user lacks the connection speed and reliability to load my site it’s because of the images, and an AMP version of the page/post they’re visiting just doesn’t help them. We’ve come this far with AJAX and everything to create beautiful, responsive and feature-rich web pages, and then we strip it all away? That’s nonsense.

After removing the AMP plugin, I added a redirect to my .htaccess file that would match all /amp/ pages, and redirect them to their normal pages. I don’t know whether Google will like me for doing that, but at least no visitor will be left with a 404 error that way.

I think that AMP is a failure, and I hope it’s a fad that won’t survive. It’s not how “the web” was meant to be. Separating content in slow and fast with separate URLs is not a solution. Normal websites (like this blog, or my photography website) don’t really need AMP, at all – as long as their design is responsive. There needs to be a better, simpler and more integrated way to serve mobile users faster and cleaner versions of a site – let me just throw “Reader” in: both Firefox and Safari can render a stripped down, clean version of a website with the click of a button, at the user’s request – but site owners need to add AMP because Google can’t do that? I’m not buying it (particularly not since Chrome for mobile has a “Distill” mode built-in as well).

Speed is really not the issue, at all…. remember when encrypted HTTPS connections were really really slow, compared to unencrypted connections? It’s the same thing with websites and mobile access – with mobile bandwidths and connection speeds increasing all the time, and smartphones getting faster and faster, it’s probably a non-issue in a year anyway – at least for real, normal users – and normal websites that aren’t loaded with a shit-ton of ads, auto-playing videos, “OutBrain” sponsored “related” (cough cough) content, and all that nonsense…

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