October 9, 2015
Google’s plan to combat ad-blockers and save the web
With the news that ad-blockers were being deployed on Apple’s browsers and by other telecoms operators across their entire network, it seemed possible that the entire landscape of the world wide web was in heading for some seismic changes. The method by which the vast majority of websites were funded (namely, advertising) was in danger, and the entity at greatest risk from this was Google itself. But Google didn’t become the vast company they are today by being stupid or falling asleep at the wheel, and this week they announced steps to safeguard their investment (and a great many websites as well).
The problem, as has been outlined on this blog before, was a question of page-bloat. The New York Times ran a series of experiments on 50 of the web’s top news sites to see how much of any given page was content, and how much was advertising. More than half the data received from these pages was in the form of advertising, and with more than half of all search queries being carried out on mobile, this was adding strain to both mobile networks and users’ mobile data budgets. Pages were slow to load, and people were beginning to turn to mobile apps, which were both faster and cheaper. Something needed to be done, and if that something was detrimental to Google’s profits, then so much the better for their competitors.
This week, Google have announced a new project, AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages. The idea is to change the structure of web pages so that they are optimized for mobile viewing. It’s sort of like having someone make you a house. Currently, you have to wait until absolutely everything is done before you can move in: building work, decorating, furnishings – even stocking the refrigerator with groceries. Only once all these things are done will the door open. With AMP, the theory is that you’ll be able to move straight in once the walls are up and the roof is on. Everything else is added around you. However, the important question, at least from Telestial’s perspective, is not a question of whether (to continue the analogy) you can move into your house quicker, it’s whether it costs the same.
It’s not entirely clear yet how AMP will impact on the size of web pages, though it does seem that there will be some significant slimming down. Much of the code that third-party publishers use (ie not Google) will not be allowed, and you may find that pages themselves aren’t as interactive as they used to be. Google themselves say that their mission is to only allow adverts that “don’t detract from the user experience”. Whether the data cost of a bloated page figures into their definition of user experience or not is unknown, but it’s a great start that companies as influential and huge as Google are acknowledging that the mobile web is now their biggest market. It also means that the sites we all use on a regular basis probably won’t need to change too much to survive. We will keep you posted on the latest developments as the project gets closer to launch, some time next year.