Improving URLs for AMP pages

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TL;DR: We are making changes to how AMP works in platforms such as Google Search that will enable linked pages to appear under publishers’ URLs instead of the URL space while maintaining the performance and privacy benefits of AMP Cache serving.

When we first launched AMP in Google Search we made a big trade-off: to achieve the user experience that users were telling us that they wanted, instant loading, we needed to start loading the page before the user clicked. As we detailed in a deep-dive blog post last year,  privacy reasons make it basically impossible to load the page from the publisher’s server. Publishers shouldn’t know what people are interested in until they actively go to their pages. Instead, AMP pages are loaded from the Google AMP Cache but with that behavior the URLs changed to include the URL prefix.

We are huge fans of meaningful URLs ourselves and recognize that this isn’t ideal. Many of y’all agree. It is certainly the #1 piece of feedback we hear about AMP. We sought to ensure that these URLs show up in as few places as possible. Over time our Google Search native apps on Android and iOS started defaulting to showing the publishers URLs and we worked with browser vendors to share the publisher’s URL of an article where possible. We couldn’t, however, fix the state of URLs where it matters most: on the web and the browser URL bar.

Regular readers may recall that I’ve complained about AMP. This latest announcement by the project lead of the AMP team at Google goes some way to solving the worst of the problems with the AMP project, but it still leaves a lot to be desired: for example, while Google still favours AMP pages in search results they’re building a walled garden and penalising people who don’t choose to be inside it, and it’s a walled garden with fewer features than the rest of the web and a lock-in effect once you’re there. We’ve seen this before with “app culture” and with Facebook, but Google have the power to do a huge amount more damage.

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