Today WordPress.com announced support for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), Google’s open source project to improve the experience of the mobile web for publishers. When visitors arrive to a WordPress.com site via a mobile search, posts will load faster than ever before.
Each post is dynamically generated according to the AMP spec, with /amp/ added to the end of the URL for the mobile version. They’re also cached in Google’s cloud infrastructure to reduce loading time. The performance gains are staggering. In early tests, Pinterest’s engineering team found that “AMP pages load four times faster and use eight times less data than traditional mobile-optimized pages.”
What makes AMP pages load so quickly? Google has a strict set of optimizations that are employed to improve mobile loading:
- Allow only asynchronous scripts
- Size all resources statically
- Don’t let extension mechanisms block rendering
- All CSS must be inline and size-bound
- Font triggering must be efficient
- Minimize style recalculations
- Only run GPU-accelerated animations
- Prioritize resource loading
- Load pages in an instant
To see just how fast AMP is, check out the Google search demo at g.co/amp.
Automattic also released a plugin that allows self-hosted WordPress users to take advantage of the mobile performance improvements offered by AMP. The plugin has been tested since October and is currently active on 8,000 installs. For most users, it’s as easy as installing the plugin and activating it. The default styles are fairly generic but developers can refer to the documentation on GitHub to further customize AMP styles.
The Jetpack team is working on getting its publishing-related modules ready for AMP compatibility. In order to take advantage of AMP performance increases, users have to compromise on JS-powered features like Sharing Buttons and Likes.
“It’s definitely something on our roadmap, and we’re working on the details and timeline at the moment,” Jetpack team lead Sam Hotchkiss told the Tavern.
AMP allows for paywalls, subscription content, and ads, but for many publishers these will have to be rebuilt to be distributed according to the AMP specifications. At this time, AMP does not support “interstitials,” the pop-up ads that obscure content and annoy readers.
Publishers can opt not to support AMP, but the kicker is that Google may show preference to results that are configured to deliver AMP-powerd posts, simply by virtue of the fact that it already factors page speed into results. The AMP demo shows a carousel of AMP-powered posts under Top Stories, but it’s not yet clear whether this will be the actual implementation.
AMP is a Big Win for the Open Web
Google is firing back at Facebook’s Instant Articles with the official launch of AMP today. Facebook’s attempt to speed up mobile viewing is platform-specific and only available within its app. AMP, on the other hand, works anywhere online and is controlled and customized by the publisher.
In October 2015, WordPress.com was one of the first publishers to partner with Google on this initiative to speed up the mobile web. Paul Maiorana, VP of Platform Services at Automattic, announced the company’s involvement in the project on the VIP blog:
We believe that open source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. We strongly and actively support a free, open internet. We’re very happy to support an open source initiative like AMP, which brings publishers and technology companies together to make a better mobile experience for everyone.
The mobile web is currently a zombie wasteland of bloated, sluggish pages – many sites are unbearable to browse and users quickly abandon slow-loading pages. The AMP project helps publishers deliver a leaner version of posts. It makes mobile browsing faster for everyone, not just those using a few select apps. As such, it is a victory for the open web.
For more background on the project with comments from WordPress.com’s Paul Maiorana, check out video below: