Google AMP Is a Horseman in the Open Web Apocalypse

The search giant’s Accelerated Mobile Pages are the latest vector for content consolidation on the internet.

Feb 26 2016, 5:00pm

Big Box content farms need more than just compelling content to lure visitors to their lucrative websites. Farms are actually trying desperately to be discovered, playing by the rules of Google's search algorithm. Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which rolled out earlier this week, might be the latest exploitative big box content farm rule that changes the habitual consumption of their users.

Slow-loading webpages are a major deterrent from the mobile user's internet experience. Gone are the days of a two to three column user experience on the web, filled with slow-loading dynamic elements. AMP, which will display pages four times faster, according to Google, has launched because interactive features became too burdensome across widely travelled websites. Too many ads, too many slideshows, too much dynamically embedded content without much value to the user. Premium content farms will get to use AMP ahead of everyone else, conforming to Google's latest initiative that gets their big box content farm premium placement.

The lite-loading HTML creates a preferred language across content manufacturers. No more poorly formatted local news sites, purposely-scaled and vaguely branded content farms, and other independent startups that once had dream of 'being discovered.' It feels like an initiative to highlight premium content, making generic 'fly by night' content farms harder to stumble upon. Premium sources playing by the AMP rules get premium placement.

It's so weird to experience content within content. Facebook's in-page articles led the way, but now Google's Accelerated Mobile pages make me feel like there is a premium web, endorsed by the largest search engines and social networks. Independent sources are harder to discover and new voices are buried by the emerging algorithms of today. The mission is creating a better internet with less noise for every user. Advertising zones are more valuable and there is less chaos overall. But I'm not sure if this insular web experience is the one that I was once promised.

Accelerated Mobile Pages are widely interpreted as Google's response to Facebook's Instant articles. The consolidation of the social web is here. Social networks and search engines want to deliver content to users without losing them, bouncing around pages without gimmicky Outbrain related links that lead you straight to nowhere. AMP pages help Google browsers feel like they aren't just being propelled into a web of nothingness.

The expectations of the mobile browsing experience are still a work in progress for most of us. Finding a trustworthy source for news and trending topics has still been difficult in the content farm era. So many different sources churning out fluff. Every website has a brand name that is compromised by the necessity to cover a seemingly meaningless #DamnDaniel viral story of the day. At least AMP pages won't make my phone crash as I scroll past news that may or may not even be important.

When loading a page coded with AMP, excessive Javascript tags are no longer prevalent, and content is cached in the cloud. When a mobile user searches for a recently trending topic, they are likely to find a selection of AMP pages above formerly 'organic results.' It's actually a quite enjoyable platform experience, with the ability to swipe across publishers like they are all a premium Snapchat Discover channel. Swipe to move along to the next instant-loading, relevant story.

Social sources like Facebook and Twitter continue to look more like the content they used to promote. In order to monetize their own platforms and keep their userbase stimulated, in-page content is the way of the future. Content farm monetization strategies like native ads seem harder to execute in the AMP era. Instead, users get to bounce across publishers while the social and search platforms seek to monetize their own userbase and experience above the content and links that they serve.

It is more clear than ever that a small cluster of premium big box content farms get to play with the giants. If you are a publisher that hasn't made your way beyond 'buzzworthy startup' status, it will be hard to get the exposure that your scalable content farm needs to get premium placement on Google, Facebook, or Twitter. The goal of content within a platform is to create a vision of the internet as a coherent place. These content providers are now coded to make the narrative of the internet feel more coherent. You are no longer bouncing around, trusting a web crawler's mandated algorithm. Now, the AMP-coded pages will provide the instant portrayal of the world, loading even faster than the internet you used to consume on your desktop. AMP makes the unsorted internet feel more like an app-based experience, rather than the dated browser experience of even just a few years ago.

Gone are the days where there was a symbiotic relationship between content producers and social platforms. Instead, the premium content producer has negotiated its premium placement on platforms of discovery. There are no more organic results.

Life on the Content Farm is a weekly column about internet media written by the last relevant blogger.

Front page photo: thisisboss/Flickr