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Will Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages Solve WordPress’ Mobile Performance Problems?

January 14, 2016 0 Comments RSS Feed

Shared HostingLet’s be frank: web performance on mobile leaves a lot to be desired. With responsive design, we have a solution that makes websites look great on mobile and desktop alike, but there’s still a long way to go if mobile websites are to compete with the performance of native applications.

It’s a problem recognized by many of the big cats in the Internet landscape. Facebook recently introduced Instant Articles and Apple hopes to improve the performance of news in particular with the Apple News app. Now Google is having a swing with its Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, which has one big advantage over the alternatives — it’s open source.

The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project builds on existing web technologies to create AMP HTML — a limited and modified subset of HTML that can be guaranteed to load quickly. Publishers create AMP-compatible pages using AMP HTML, which is designed to be both fast-loading and easy to cache. Google and a number of other online services will provide caching for AMP-compatible pages. The combination of caching, aggressive pre-rendering, and constrained content allows the pages to load incredibly quickly compared to the average mobile web page — but, that speed is not without a price.

The most contentious part of AMP is likely to be the strict limitations it places on JavaScript, including advertising and tracking. In fact, AMP disallows the inclusion of almost all third-party JavaScript libraries. Instead it includes a small JavaScript library of its own which adds custom components like amp-image and amp-video. You can take a look at what AMP HTML looks like on the project’s GitHub page, which includes numerous examples. You can see an example of an AMP page on Google’s technical introduction to the project.

The JavaScript library also controls the way that pages are loaded — it will optimize for rendering elements that appear “above-the-fold” and try to load the page’s components to provide the best possible experience for mobile users.

Whether site owners will be comfortable creating separate “AMPed up” pages for mobile or accept the limitations of what’s essentially a fork of HTML is yet to be seen, but the list of publishers and platforms supporting AMP is impressive. Publishers include BuzzFeed, The Guardian, Vox, The New York Times, and Mashable. Platforms include Google, Adobe, Twitter, LinkedIn, Nuzzel, and, most interesting for us — WordPress.

Accelerated Mobile Pages And WordPress

The first thing to understand is that AMP is an early stage project and is likely to change as development advances. Additionally, support will be patchy, especially in search, so don’t expect great things quite yet.

As I said, WordPress is supporting AMP, and they’re showing that support with a plugin. When you install and activate the plugin, it will generate AMP HTML pages for your content that will be available at your existing URLs with /amp/ added to the end.

Documentor

Accelerated Mobile Pages is an exciting project, firstly because it’s open source and, secondly, because it has such wide industry support. Because it’s open source, users won’t be locked into a single ecosystem as they are with Facebook’s Instant Articles. Widespread support means that it’s likely AMP will be around for some time to come. AMP is worth keeping an eye on for all content publishers.

Posted in: WordPress