Last week at the AMP Contributor Summit 2019 in New York City, the AMP project announced that it will be joining the OpenJS Foundation incubation program. OpenJS was formed by a recent merger between the JS Foundation and the Node.js Foundation. AMP will join webpack, jQuery, Mocha, Node.js, ESLint, Grunt, and other open source projects that have OpenJS as their legal entity.
Over the past year, AMP has been evolving its governance, moving to an open, consensus-seeking governance model in 2018, similar to the one adopted by the Node.js project. One of the primary objectives of changing AMP’s governance and moving to a foundation was to foster a wider variety of contributions to the project and its technical and product roadmap. The incubation process will address AMP’s lack of contributor diversity and inclusion, as only past or current Google employees have commit rights on the code base.
In recognition of how the project’s connection to Google has been problematic for adoption, the company is transferring AMP’s domains and trademarks to OpenJS, which is a vender-neutral organization, as outlined in the FAQs of OpenJS’ announcement:
The OpenJS Foundation prides itself on vendor neutrality. Our vested interest resides solely in the ecosystem and the projects that contribute to that ecosystem. The OpenJS Foundation’s Cross Project Council is committed to supporting AMP in addressing these issues and ensure continued progress. During onboarding, AMP will also go through a multi-step process including adopting the OpenJS Foundation Code of Conduct, transferring domains and trademarks and more to graduation from incubation. AMP has made incredible strides by adopting a new governance model and by joining the OpenJS Foundation, they’ve made their intentions clear-AMP is committed to its vision of “A strong, user-first open web forever.”
Google is, however, a Platinum member of the OpenJS Foundation with annual dues of more than $250K per year. This membership guarantees the company direct participation in running the Foundation, a guaranteed board seat, and have a direct voice in budget and policy decisions. Google plans to maintain its team of employees who contribute full time to the AMP project.
According to Tobie Langel, a member AMP’s advisory committee, one of the changes in moving to the OpenJS Foundation is AMP’s governance model will no longer be under the purview of Google and the ultimate goal is that Google will cease funding AMP directly. Instead, the company will direct funds through the foundation and work to remove the project’s Google dependencies for its infrastructure and tooling.
OpenJS Aims to Disentangle AMP Runtime from Google Cache
Gaining full infrastructural independence from Google will be no small feat for AMP contributors. The OpenJS Foundation’s announcement states that one of the long term goals in moving the project over is to disentangle the AMP runtime from the Google AMP Cache:
The end goal is to separate the AMP runtime from the Google AMP Cache. The Project is currently in the incubating stage and Project leaders are still determining the next steps. Ideally, hosting and deployment of the AMP runtime to the CDN would fall under the purview of the OpenJS Foundation, much like the foundation is handling other projects CDNs, such as the jQuery CDN.
Untangling the runtime from the cache is a complex endeavor requiring significant investments of time and effort which would be planned and implemented in collaboration with the foundation and industry stakeholders during and after incubation.
The OpenJS Foundation CPC is committed to having a long-term strategy in place to address this issue by the end of AMP’s incubation.
AMP is used on more than 30 million domains. While many see this news as a positive move towards AMP’s eventual independence from Google, it doesn’t remove Google’s power to compel publishers to support the AMP standard by prioritizing AMP pages in search results. The news was received with skepticism by commenters on Hacker News and Reddit, who deemed it “mostly meaningless window-dressing,” given how aggressively Google is pushing AMP in its search engine. AMP remains deeply controversial and moving it to a foundation that is heavily financially backed by Google is not enough to win over those who see it as Google’s attempt to shape the web for its own interests.