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Google AMP case study: leads dropped by 59% (kinsta.com)
336 points by krn 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 158 comments

Here's the reality. The Taboola news carousals at the bottom of most slow loading actual news sites are filled with total junk. One page per image websites, super slow, adblock goes crazy. I've literally NEVER had a good experience with these "Stories you may like"

Google does something with a news carousel that loads fast and the content isn't crap. I get why publishers running things like taboola think it's terrible, but as a user interested in reading some quick news without going blind, I like it.

Hacker news is the exception in terms of a quick loading / clean website.

I was a google reader user heavily - so I like the more stripped down view of things even if it's "terrible".

One other note about this study. This company's goal is not to educate but to sign up users. At least for myself, Folks who want / like a stripped down experience may just be less interested in being marketed to.

> The Taboola news carousals at the bottom of most slow loading actual news sites are filled with total junk.

This, a thousands times. For both Taboola and Outbrain it's clickbaity trash - usually misleading and low quality content. They're designed to "disrupt" so that people click on them and have in the past featured on blatantly false news stories. I'd honestly be ashamed to work at one of these sort of organisations and it further underlines how awful the web experience can be if you're not using an ad blocker.

It's no surprise to me that AMP is popular among users if news sites are not including such garbage in their AMP renditions.

It's interesting that so many people would enjoy AMP, because on my Android, viewing AMP sites in Google's main app often feels much slower than regular web browsing in Firefox for Android.

The difference? I have an ad-blocker in Firefox, but not in Google's app.

So Ad-blocking > AMP > Regular (as far as user-experience from a speed perspective). Obviously Google has a lot of incentive to make sure people don't go the ad-blocking route.

Though not sure what is keeping ad-blocking from growing given its superiority - likely just a lack of awareness about the option. If ad-blocking ever did grow massively though, the internet would change in ways we haven't yet seen. Either ad-serving companies would win the arms battle and ad-blockers would become ineffective, or, the web would have to move to a new payment model (Brave-like perhaps).

I'm not entirely sure what the ideal is - likely a model where users can choose between ads or micropayments is the most pragmatic world.

Google AMP on iOS is also much worse than Safari + adBlocker. AMP also leaves out relevant content.

A huge pet peeve of mine was that I'd google for something I once saw on Reddit, or maybe I just wanted to see a certain discussion. Google would identify the correct post, but then I'd either get it in AMP or new-redesign format, both of which present a terrible loss in readability (for the most part).

With AMP in particular, there was no obvious link back towards Reddit itself. And with the redesign, the actual discussion was interrupted with sections showing what other posts you could read on the subreddit. Similarly, both lost the essential hierarchy and it was really hard to follow the threads of discussion.

The whole thing was dreadful compared to using the decade old Reddit design. The modern stuff is crap.

Heh I uninstalled reddit is fun a while ago to limit my procrastination. Worked well. But I reinstalled after about a week because I search for things on Reddit via Google regularly.

Reddit has some disturbing dark patterns going on.

You can't view a page on their site without being nudged to use their app. And you're asked every single page view. Like take a damn hint please.

I'd be ok with the asking but they use different popups with the "no, go away" answer in different places with different wording.

This is all exasperated by AMP, I have to click the amp banner twice to load the real url, this then prompts to open in reddit is fun. Prompts because I want this to happen only sometimes.

It was these dark patterns that prompted me to really step back and re-evaluate what I wanted to get out of Reddit.

I set a hard timer on the app and focused on surfing Hacker News instead (since I wanted to keep abreast of tech news). I still browse /r/politics for popcorn purposes, but otherwise no other subreddits. To my surprise today I realised I hadn't opened Reddit and didn't even miss it at all.

Thanks. You have just convinced me to never browse reddit again, and I've been on it since 2007.

I think the trick is to go to google.com with Desktop Mode (iOS: share page from Mobile Safari then scroll bottom icons left, I think).


(A) gets Google to return desktop links (rather than cruddy mobile links)

(B) gets the site to show the desktop version rather than the cruddy mobile site.

It is more obvious how to do it on Android (google.com in Desktop Mode), but I do it on the iPad at work when needed.

(iOS, tap and hold on reload button to request Desktop Site)

My beef is that it used to jack the scrolling. I don't know if it still does.

This has been partially fixed. AMP no longer scrolls at a different rate than other websites, but it still doesn't collapse the URL bar when scrolling.

Considering the percentage of news sites that can't even scroll properly on iOS, I'm not sure this is a bad thing.

I remember this being speculated heavily as one of the most important reasons for Google implementing AMP in the first place.

The best of both worlds is to use Firefox to handle the AMP site links from Google Now, or Google Feed, or whatever it is called now. Fast, and with ublock.

The only problem I've ever seen is that stories from tomshardware do not load in firefox mobile unless I replace the amp in the URL with a www.

You can use https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/amp2html/ to have AMP sites automatically redirect to the non-AMP version.

Firefox Focus is the fastest android browser experience. I use that as my default browser, and only swap to normal Firefox when using a site I need to login to

I think the ads you get from Taboola put you through a really awful funnel to weed out one-eighth wits and anybody else smarter.

It's like the "grooming" that a pedophile does or the badly spelled message you get from some Nigerian prince or somebody who says you won some lottery that you've never entered or even heard of before.

If you click on Taboolah links and manage to sit through a 45 minute video of somebody droning on and using words they can't pronounce (e.g. "Bih Seph A Nol A" as opposed to "Bis Phenol a") you just might be dumb enough to punch in your credit card number and get an $80 a month supplement that you can never cancel.

If it wasn't so offputting to ordinary people more complaints might go to the FTC and they might have something to fear from the authorities. As it is, public servants are paid too much to spend hours just to find out what the scam is if somebody reports it.

I saw an ad in one of those chum boxes[1] yesterday that was a common one, "drivers in [your city] are shocked by this new law." However, I noticed something right away about it that stuck out like a sore thumb - I live in the Northeast, for those who are unfamiliar with the Northeast, we have a lot of trees and greenery here, every year I have to crawl into my bushes and pull trees growing in there and pull trees that start growing in the foundation of my house and along my fence line. However, the picture was of some women being arrested in (what I would consider) a desert.

IDK, just a really weird juxtaposition that stood out to me.

[1] https://www.theawl.com/2015/06/a-complete-taxonomy-of-intern...

dumb question: do Taboola and Outbrain try to infer the user's demographics based on the clickbait "news stories" the user clicks?

e.g. some of these "stories" appeal specifically to fans of a particular TV show or actor from a specific time range.

No, and they have little reason to do so.

They throw spaghetti at the wall, cater to low quality publishers and use your location to clumsily make it seem like the content is relevant to you with the most clickbaity headlines known to man.

But the thing is ... it works. People are clicking on this nonsense and other people are paying for those clicks (and publishers making money in the process).

AMP is a fork of HTML that pressures limited developer resources to maintain a version for Google's visitors while only being fast because of arbitrary framework limitations.

You can get a far better outcome by having search results consider site speed as a factor in rankings, which would make all publishers improve their sites overnight. The reason Google doesn't do this is because they also run the biggest ad network in the world which runs 80% of the slow ads you see on websites.

These projects within Google are common, similar to how it ranks down websites forcing web users to download an app, when their own websites do the same. AMP allows Google to keep people on Google domains, with better data collection and more control over the independent ad networks and analytics that can run on AMP pages.

The open secret in adtech and media is that this isn't used to any real effect, if at all. Google's own sites fail these performance reports.

> a version for Google's visitors

And Microsoft's and Pinterest's and Baidu's and on and on. There are many search engines and link aggregators that preload AMP pages.

You prefer that publishers make versions of their articles solely for Apple and other versions of their articles solely for Facebook? (Each has a proprietary competitor to AMP that actually have the disadvantages you listed.)

Why do you keep saying "you prefer" in comments? That's a poor way to frame arguments.

What I actually prefer is HTML which is universally accessible by any device and service. No reason to have any proprietary formats like AMP or others.

> No reason to have any proprietary formats like AMP or others.

Unless you want pages to load instantly, which is what AMP and its non-web competitors provide.

HackerNews loads instantly, as do many other sites. HTML works fine.

The problem is the stuff on the page, like ads delivered by Google AdX. Removing or optimizing those will make any page faster. No AMP necessary.

Slow sites are not a technical problem, they are a business and marketing problem.

> HackerNews loads instantly, as do many other sites. HTML works fine.

They load quickly, not instantly. That's the fundamental mistake you have in understanding why people prefer AMP, Facebook instant articles, and Apple News.

All AMP is doing is providing training wheels for developers to create non-crappy versions of their websites by restricting what they include.

AFAIK, there is no special magic to AMP that makes it fast, that can't be accomplished with simple CSS/HTML. It's just an on-rails subset of web technologies

Now, it may be arguable, in this screwed-up world, that the only way to remotely even get publishers to make better websites is something like AMP, because it's "marketable" or "friendly" compared to just saying "fix your slow website", I just wish this wasn't the case. But I believe anything AMP does can be accomplished through non-proprietary means using standard web technologies.

Not to mention, publishers probably only care about AMP because they feel forced to do so (because of carousel visibility, etc).

> AFAIK, there is no special magic to AMP that makes it fast, that can't be accomplished with simple CSS/HTML. It's just an on-rails subset of web technologies

The reason AMP loads instantly is that it is possible to validate AMP pages as safe to preload, so they are preloaded (when you interact with the carousel). That's why it's instant instead of just fast.

The average human response time is roughly 250ms so page loads within 1-2 seconds do not make a major impact on user interaction, especially if the actual text content is available immediately which can be done easily.

AMP has little benefits to anyone but Google and the work it requires only takes away from the effort that could otherwise be spent on making the original website faster.

We work with 1000s of publishers and every major adtech company, and over the years we've built the fastest ad network on the planet using techniques from TCP window sizes to counting bytes in HTTP2 streams. AMP is not necessary for speed, it only requires business prioritization, but you can't fix that with technical standards.

I was with you 100% about the AMP stuff, but a statement like "page loads within 1-2 seconds do not make a major impact" is just so laughably wrong that I have to wonder where you source your information. If you actually work in the space, it would behoove you to do some A/B testing on different page load speeds. You will quickly see that it does indeed make a huge impact on user interaction.

That is leaving aside the fact that nobody is actually investing the time they'd spend in AMP to make their website faster. It's simply not something the really bad publishers (for example, a lot of the news space) care about, for reasons I have never managed to follow.

Why is it wrong? My identity isn't hidden, you can easily check my industry experience. I'm speaking on TBs of data directly measured everyday on the publishers we work with.

I also said "especially if the actual text content is available immediately", which it almost always is. It's the other assets on the page that slow down loading. If you check the top 5k sites, none of them load any faster than 1-2 seconds, but many focus on optimizing for the first paint experience while loading the full site content over a few seconds. This is basically what AMP does, but taken to an extreme degree.

There are many other factors like content types, page depth, dwell time, user activity, etc. that all matter, and it really takes 3+ seconds to start seeing significant effects on user sessions and revenue. Publishers don't make performance a priority because of something called yield management and a host of other complex business reasons related to revenue. Making the site more performant is usually not worth the limited dev resources, which again are affected by things like AMP.

I’d prefer they stuck to HTML and CSS, with a bit of progressively enhanced JS on top if needed.

Which is fine but not a substitute to Facebook's or Apple's solutions. People want their articles to load instantly, not merely quickly, which means you need a subset of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that can be validated to be safe to preload, which is exactly what AMP is.

Preloading is just making server calls which is already possible, and preloading the HTML of the page will give you most of the experience of an instant transition without any need to validate anything.

> preloading the HTML of the page will give you most of the experience of an instant transition without any need to validate anything.

It will also deanonymize the user to the publisher. I said AMP validates as safe to preload, not possible to preload.

I assume you're free to implement taboola like widgets on an AMP page that link out to garbage.

Yeah, I don't get parent's argument "AMP is not that bad because Taboola". AMP is a technological solution and as such it doesn't prevent content creators from publishing crap.

I don’t like AMP, but I am so happy to see when websites complain that “leads dropped by 59%” because of it.

For “leads” to drop that much it must mean they weren’t legitimate, happy leads in the first place. I bet those “leads” came from a shit letter popup or other similar dark pattern, in which case AMP works as designed and benefits the user by shielding them from such garbage.

AMP is bad for the web in the long term. But it is a decent stop-gap solution given that nobody is willing to make their websites bearable without Google’s pressure.

EDIT: I just tried their website again without an ad blocker and sure enough, I was asked to subscribe to their shitletter.

I'm also an Amp hater and welcomed this news. Then, I went to the site. Because I really hate AMP I dismissed all three of their mobile pop ups; one after another. After reading the article I tried to use the back button to go back to hacker news; took three clicks (maybe one for each popup)? I'm guessing you are correct and they need to take another look for causation.

Agreed. However, I'm more in favour of AMP because if the reasons you mentioned. Essentially I think Google has tricked a lot of publishers into using less dark patterns and avoiding shooting themselves in the foot with heavy ads and tracking. It's not perfect but from an end user perspective I'm grateful for it.

It's also important to note that AMP isn't meant to be used for every site out there. It's only useful for specific sites that have a static landing pages. I still don't understand why sites like reddit use it either.

The SEO incentives are likely enough to make any and all types of websites interested in using it.

> But it is a decent stop-gap solution given that nobody is willing to make their websites bearable without Google’s pressure.

Somehow I don’t think Google wants them to stop showing ads. Everything else is a distraction that ignores the root cause of the customer experience being shitty.

I think that AMP made Google's search results feel like they were essentially just Google's own pages. Because that's exactly what the user sees in his address bar, when he visits an accelerated mobile page: google.com/amp/<...>. And that encourages him to hit "Back" as soon as he is done with it, instead of checking out the newly discovered website. Because he never felt like he had discovered anything. He never felt that he had left Google.

The fact, that there are no AMP pages in Google's search results on Firefox Mobile, was the final reason for me to make the switch. I feel like I am browsing the world wide web again, not just a Google's snapshot of it.

Users don't see google.com, they see shittypopups.com delivered by Google

Hopefully this one-sided, web damaging framework will die a death like IE finally did, with its awful standards.

There are two sides with AMP:

- A set of enforced good practices that make sites faster and generally more user friendly

- A way for Google to get more control by introducing a semi-proprietary framework

The disturbing thing is that webmasters usually criticize the first aspect. Basically they want to bloat their sites and AMP doesn't let them do it. They don't really care about the second part. They are already using Google analytics, Google ads and optimize for Google search anyways. It means that the ones who can do something want AMP to die for all the wrong reasons.

For that reason, I think that AMP is good (or less bad). Even better would be to do what AMP does but without the Google framework. That would make it even faster than AMP because there won't be any Google bloat.


I can’t understand why the hell anyone would want to use it anyway. The experience is terrible.

Publishers use it because otherwise their stories don't end up in the carousel widget for Google searches. I don't think many of them are actually buying into the AMP hype. They are just backed into a corner.

I can confirm this. Source: working at my country's largest newspaper.

It isn't though, really. Page load really is nearly instantaneous. I'm no fan of AMP, but I see the reasons why users like it.

You're right about that, but AMP'ed pages not coming from Google's cache are already really fast. Actually they're only preloading those pages while you're on the results page, which is something they could do as a reward for all pages that have a reduced page weight.

> something they could do as a reward for all pages that have a reduced page weight

This would leak information to sites that came up in your search results but you didn't visit. Webpackages should make it be possible to safely prerender sites without AMP though: https://wicg.github.io/webpackage/draft-yasskin-webpackage-u...

(Disclosure: I work at Google, on making ads AMP so they don't get to run arbitrary JS anymore)

It is not safe to preload arbitrary web pages. The user will be deanonymized to a site they never visited. It is safe to preload AMP pages by design.

And yet now you never leave Google's servers when browsing. They know your entire path from search to site and back again.

Google would have known you clicked on the link anyway. You would prefer the publishers and ad networks track users on pages they never even visit?

AMP pages mean Google has 1st party access to your browser no matter what you browse, which is far more than normal.

I didn't state any preferences, and how would sites track you on pages you don't visit?

> how would sites track you on pages you don't visit?

As I stated in GGGP, the benefit of AMP is that it allows a user to safely preload pages.

Because you never leave Google's domain, thereby allowing it track you far more. Preloading is a minor detail considering how much privacy is removed.

Google already scraped the page to show the snippet, so they know what you're looking at. Whatever the privacy loss might be, people are happy to make that tradeoff with Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News. Similarly, they're happy to make that tradeoff on the web, which explains why AMP is used by so many search engines and link aggregators, not just Google.

People have no choice in the matter. Facebook and Google trade higher visibility for publishers that participate, in exchange for the same data tracking capabilities and limitations in 3rd-party ad networks from making money.

Apple News is entirely different and more comparable to using any other news app (like Flipboard) or an RSS reader rather than a website.

People is so nebulous. I am people and I don't make that tradeoff.

Tell me what privacy you think you're losing. Then avoid clicking on AMP results.

It's wonderful when browsing. Pages load in less than half a minute, unlike nearly the entire rest of the internet.

Hacker News doesn't need it, but they're nearly unique in having written a good website.

I abhor it on mobile. I can't navigate away from it easily, it's hard to copy paste annurl to share with others, etc. I wish Chrome had the option to disable it, but of course they don't.

> I can't navigate away from it easily

eh? You can't hit 'back'?

It does hijack the back button for carousel loaded pages in a way that's odd.

Search for some newsworthy word, say "trump". Click a carousel story. Swipe right (another hijack), and the page loads a story from a competitor to the publisher of the original loaded AMP page.

Now, hit the back button. One assumes it would go to the original loaded story, right? Nope, it goes back to Google. Surely that wasn't intentional, right?

Going back to google makes sense as my intention is to read the news of the day, not cross reference. Stack behavior would drive me crazy here.

I suppose, but that sort of reinforces the real purpose of AMP. No publisher in their right mind would give up the top part of their page and enable left/right swipe to navigate to competitors, give up the back button control, etc. It's basically a protection racket. Pay up (in control terms), or get pushed down the search results page.

Feels a lot like the old "digg bar" (https://moz.com/ugc/die-diggbar-die-die-should-you-kill-the-...)

> No publisher in their right mind would give up the top part of their page and enable left/right swipe to navigate to competitors

Publishers usually do not make good decisions. That behavior is for users and (IMHO) it's great.

That behaviour is for Google, not for users.

For me though, they already have. I don't browse via their nav. I spearfish articles and I'm out. I find most news sites navigation and search garbage and have to resort to site: searches

They might also mean "go to the non-AMP version", which is my main issue with AMP.

I'd like to get the non-AMP page to e.g. see user comments (if any) which are often omitted from the AMP version, or for posting the non-AMP URL to friends or social media.

Sometimes there is an easy way to go to non-AMP page, depending on how you got there, but most of the time for me there is not. For example, this article just appeared on my Google feed on my phone, with no way to open the non-AMP version: https://www.vice.com/amp/en_uk/article/wda7jm/where-does-he-...

My preferred option would be to have AMP permanently disabled on my phone.

How to disable AMP permanently on your phone:

- stop using Google feed. I can't recommend a one-stop replacement, since I use RSS to follow sites I trust to produce high-quality content and HN to discover new stuff.

- stop using other Google products that link to AMP pages. DuckDuckGo is good enough these days.

- use Firefox. That in itself might prevent Google search from showing AMP results, if you can't bear to use DDG. At least someone said so two years ago in this thread on Google's product forums https://productforums.google.com/forum/?_escaped_fragment_=t...

- install https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/amp2html/ in Firefox. It still needs to load the AMP page to grab the canonical URL, but then it redirects to the non-AMP version. You can also add an adblocker like uBlock Origin while you're at it. The ability to install addons is what makes Firefox the best mobile browser in my opinion.

I just thought of this great Ffox addon that I use too. AMP pages are not real web pages. They are awful.

I couldn't agree more. The problem with AMP is that it isn't possible to disable it. Other than that, I appreciate what Google is trying to do, even if their implementation has a few flaws.

It constantly breaks the back button and screws up my history.

I'm agnostic on AMP, but I very much agree with you that they should add the option to disable. Android is all about choice and user empowerment! That's why I love it

> Android is all about choice and user empowerment!

I disagree, strongly. I believe Android is really more about keeping you in the Google ecosystem. So is AMP, so is Chrome. I'm an Android user, but let's not pretend they are really about "choice and user empowerment." That's just the sales pitch. Every single thing Google creates is to collect information on/from us, because that's their revenue model. Selling our data. If you disagree, compare the ad revenue from all of them. Who's is miles ahead? Why? How? You're giving them your data. A LOT of it.

Agreed regarding ulterior motives (keeping you in their ecosystem). In the excellent book "In The Plex" by Steven Levy, he talks about Google's motivation of essentially building a browser, mobile OS, etc just to ensure that some other party (like Apple) doesn't cut them out and reduce their search/ad domination. I believe protecting search/ads is at the base of their motives (as is, undeniably, vacuuming up tons of data and mining it for ML purposes).

But that said, why do so much for open source? Why not keep big things proprietary? Why sell Chromebooks that can be unlocked, put in dev mode, and flashed with FOSS BIOS implementations? Why allow unlocking the bootloader on Nexus and Pixel phones? There's lots of things they do that clearly aren't for the bottom line or just to trap you in their ecosystem (they do offer versions of basically everything for iOS as well, which makes it easier to switch to iPhone even if you are deep in the Google ecosystem).

Some of my argument is emotionally based tho, I will admit. After being trapped in Apple's very proprietary, anti-competitive, you-dont-own-it-we-do system, I find the ability to reclaim some freedom (tho not all, they could do better) very nice.

So I think our only real disagreement is likely regarding motives.

> why do so much for open source?

For the low price of working under an open source[1] license, they bought over a decade of support from a large portion of tech industry professionals. Google (along with the other FAANG businesses) was able to simply ask people to supporting their increasingly monopolistic position.

When some of us attempted to warn about the long term consequences of giving Google/etc even more power, we were ignored or accused of being "crazy conspiracy theorists"; with a lot of open projects to use as counterexamples, and not many current, specific examples of Google actually abusing their power, a lot of people simply couldn't believe that Google might be doing anything bad.

Open sourcing anything that overlapped with a competitor's proprietary software was a highly successful strategy to undermine the market and hurt their competitor's revenue. The minimax best move isn't always the move that maximizes your benefit; sometimes it's the move that minimizes your opponent..

[1] Note that while they use FSF/RMS-style free Software, Google generally doesn't license their open source software under the GPL. Their openness has a carefully considered limit.

> But that said, why do so much for open source?

It gets them more users for their services if people make use of their open-source libraries that happen to be optimized for Google, e.g. by integrating better with Google's cloud offerings.

> Why not keep big things proprietary?

They do keep big things proprietary. If it directly makes money for Google, you're not going to see it's source code, unless you work for Google.

> Why sell Chromebooks that can be unlocked, put in dev mode, and flashed with FOSS BIOS implementations? Why allow unlocking the bootloader on Nexus and Pixel phones?

Most people don't change their OS ever, so it doesn't really matter whether bootloaders are locked or not. Even if more people did it, many of them would still install Google apps, so it would continue not to matter.

> There's lots of things they do that clearly aren't for the bottom line or just to trap you in their ecosystem (they do offer versions of basically everything for iOS as well, which makes it easier to switch to iPhone even if you are deep in the Google ecosystem).

Google is not in the phone business. Their phones are just funnels for their advertising business. If they were in the phone business, offering those indispensable apps to iOS users would decrease their ecosystem lock-in. But because they're not in the phone business, offering apps for iOS increases their ecosystem lock-in, because even going to Apple, you still stay with Google.

Nexus/Pixel phones exist only as funnels into the Android ecosystem. Android exists only as a funnel into default-installed Chrome, Gmail and Google Search. Chrome itself is a funnel for Google Search, while Gmail's purpose is to make people sign into an account for easier tracking. Then there's the general ecosystem pull of being the one-stop shop for a bunch of online services. But in the end it all boils down to ads.

Because the majority of their products are only funnels, they'll happily cooperate with competitors for some of those products, if that helps them keep people in the wider Google ecosystem. So you get Chrome for iOS, Google Search for Firefox and so on.

When a company seems to be hurting their own bottom line by giving away stuff for free, it's usually because the free stuff isn't that important to them and their real bottom line is elsewhere.

> Most people don't change their OS ever

Or the default search engine, which is Google. So most Apple users are still using Google, and Google pays a ton for Apple users data. $12B is not a trivial chunk of change. That's more than most companies make, and that's only from search! http://fortune.com/2018/09/29/google-apple-safari-search-eng...

But not QUITE as terrible as the UX of news sites without AMP. Which I suppose was the point.

Purely to keep the SEO positioning everyone enjoyed before it came into being.

"Recycling of lost faculties".

They take it away from you and then you will bend over and kiss Matt's Butt.

It only takes a couple business to start using it and always winding up at the top of search before everyone else feels they have to like it or not.


Reader view in firefox makes it very fast. Like how the web used to be. It just displays the images/text of the actual content and strips everything else out. I immediately hit that button on most sites now, and they load in under 1s (usually way under). It even has a dark mode! No videos playing, no ads changing in sidebars distracting your eyes, no popups making your click through. Just the content you wanted to see. I just wish you could make it the default mode.

Often times the websites are completely broken under reader mode: images are in the wrong locations, image captions are treated as article text, article text doesn't appear on websites that have awful scrolling behaviour.

I completely understand why people have problems with AMP. However, AMP is a drop-in replacement (for the user) and Firefox's reader mode is simply not equivalent, as much as I use it.

> Could we have done more conversion rate optimization to our AMP install? Probably yes. There are ways to add CTAs, newsletter signups, etc

If I'm reading this correctly they switched from regular pages with CTAs to AMP pages without CTAs. Seemingly this test was designed to fail.

The analysis on the google analytics data seems a bit biased against AMP.

- decrease in average positions in SERPs on mobile - decrease in CTR on mobile - higher number of impressions - slight increase in total clicks

These measures are correlated. You can't just add them all together.

More impressions with the same amount of clicks means CTR (click through rate) will drop. Average position should also drop.

In this case we see a slight increase in total clicks and almost double impressions!

What if adding AMP makes Google show your site to a wider range of audience (more variance on target audience), while assigning your pages a lower weight (average position). You would get this behaviour. Lower average position but more clicks. This could lower your account creation and similar metrics because users are less interested.

What I mean is for some websites, getting more clicks would be great. If your total clicks is the goal, you would like these results (ex: page with ads). For search users, this is not good because we are shown pages that are less relevant.

I would like more explanations on mobile leads, account creation, and newsletter email sign-ups dropped. Why not show plots? Are these compared to total from previous months or percentages? We should also need to be able to compare both websites (mobile vs AMP) to see if there are any major differences.

I am not an SEO expert or web designer but I personally use AMP on my modest website. I don't even have a desktop version. Only AMP. It is simpler that way and took only an afternoon (for a css noob) to switch. What made me switch was their amp-img carousel lightbox. They are simple to use and just work. I tried a plethora of css/js carousel or album viewers and chose AMP. Bonus page speed and better mobile search cards.

Very much agree with this comment. It’s quite likely that the AMP pages received incremental impressions in lower positions, which reduced the overall average position but increased clicks.

The screenshot of rankings from another tool (looks like Accuranker) with a few +1 ranking improvements after disabling AMP also seems insignificant. Often this kind of fluctuation is very normal. Without knowing the baseline level of ranking fluctuation, it’s hard to read too much into this.

This is the danger of analysing ‘totals’ without segmentation to better track incrementality.

Any test needs to be properly controlled to form clear conclusions and I don’t see enough rigor here.

I would however commend the article on its advice to avoid simply ‘disabling’ AMP after using it for a period of time. There is cleanup to be done as the article touches on, and I suspect many may not be aware.

Over and over again I'll click a link from Twitter or elsewhere, and in mere moments I'm thinking to myself…waaait a sec, is this another crappy AMP page?

It never looks right. It's always "off" in some weird (and sometimes very obvious) way. Nearly every time I go to the real page on the real website, it looks better and functions better. Since I use an ad blocker, it's never a problem for me that the real site might want to load heavier ads on mobile.

AMP is a plague on the open web. It's offensive, I never request it, and it never solves any problem for me. I'm glad I use DuckDuckGo as my search engine so I never get kicked to AMP pages from search. As a web developer, I've vowed never to implement AMP on any of my client sites and will explain to my clients why if asked (and so far I've never been asked).

Just say no to AMP.

You have hit the nail on the head with this explanation. Just.Say.No!

So another problem with AMP delivered via Google is it tends to utterly booger your analytics... first pageview (via the Google cache) is viewed as a different domain than your site. This can play havoc with optimization efforts.

In terms of performance... this is a situation where the AVERAGE AMP site is much faster than the AVERAGE site not using AMP... but that's a rigged game given the volume of non-optimized WordPress junk and god-knows-what coming from the typical advertising server (images, video, scripts).

A well-optimized site run by knowledgeable and balanced adults will see a moderate improvement in speed; this is assuming you leaned out the pages already and kept the advertising cruft on a short leash. You can generally beat AMP's load times with some elbow grease.

You can’t beat its load times. Google pre-renders the web page before the user clicks, which isn’t safe to do with pages created by your own elbow grease.

Load times ain’t everything, and it’s a terrible pitch for something that breaks basic rules of browsing.

This post was specifically saying you could beat AMP’s load times. That isn’t possible.

You can actually.... with very, very lean design....

Nope. You can’t best the speed of light.

the easiest way to get rid of AMP pages is rolling out an !important; in the AMP CSS - so invalidating the AMP pages.

wait until they are kicked out from the google cache (see your trusted google search console, best the useable old one).

then remove the references to the AMP page from the non-AMP pages. then delete the AMPs.

usually takes 2 to 3 days for a few thousand pages.

They don’t actually say why they think leads declined.

They list a few reasons why they think it didn’t increase, e.g. they’re already fast on mobile. But they don’t explain a 59% drop in leads.

Crucially they note that impressions and clicks actually increased with AMP. That points to an unflattering explanation: the AMP format is blocking techniques they use to turn clicks into leads.

So why don’t they discuss the reasons for the drop? Perhaps because they know those techniques are user hostile.

A company trying to hijack the web is not a good idea.

I have experienced AMP only from the user perspective and always hated it since day one. Until now I don't really understand where it came from and why people would willingly enable it on their site. The first thing I do when I see it is consider whether to go somewhere else or open the actual underlying link.

It already sounds toxic. Instead of loading your page suddenly I load a google wrapper that includes some parts of your page. Doesn't that sound like a red flags for anybody? Does it sound less toxic if I call it "free and open google wrapper build on existing technologies"?

As a user I like AMP because it's guaranteed to be very fast. There, I said it.

Well sure, Google isn't dumb. Adding in enough benefits (speed, carousel placement) to your Trojan horse ensures there are plausible reasons to bring it into the fort.

Publishers certainly wouldn't give up the most important bits of their page (the top), and cede left/right swipe hijacking (on carousel loaded pages) if there weren't some perceived benefit.

"Perceived" benefit is the key.

It used to be the "World Wide Web" but now it is the "Google Platform" and we just live in it. After Google established that useful web search was possible the realized that the #1 competitor for their ads was organic rankings, and if you could really get a #1 ranking by investing in the best content then why would you spend money on ads?

So since then it is has been about deliberately degrading the search results so you learn to look at the ads instead, giving people bad S.E.O. advice, etc.

izacus 35 days ago [flagged]

Your conspirancy theory completely ignores the whole shitshow of 15MB+ textual websites we've had to endure in those last years.

"Conspiracy theory" is an interesting take. Are you suggesting Google's motives here are purely altruistic...solely to improve the web?

The conspiracy here seems to refer to the accusation that Google is trying to actively make their search results worse, in order to force people to buy ads.

That post does seem to be paying lip service to actual benefits for users (such as speed), but then ... suddenly ignore them in favour of a Trojan horse metaphor that doesn't make much sense to me.

It would be hard to prove Google is purposefully making the organics lower quality. On the other hand, it's obvious they are shifting them down the page over time, which has a similar effect.

As for the Trojan horse metaphor, it is my opinion that's what AMP is. It's tricking publishers into ceding control of their websites. I suspect Google will, over time, leverage AMP to further march towards a walled garden. It is, though, an opinion. Hard for me to "prove" something I'm not privy to.

No, I'm not implying they're purely anything. As most of these things go, they're a mix of both business convenience and someone pushing to fix a problem they perceive on the web. Your post took into account only one dimension of an issue.

"Your post took into account only one dimension of an issue"

No, pretty sure I covered both. Maybe you're thinking of one of the replies to my post?

80% of the ads you see on the web come from Doubleclick adserver - owned by Google. Perhaps you should ask why they do not optimize that system and use site speed in search rankings instead?

Last time I checked the url bar still works

Completely agree as a user.

Its fast when it works. On my tablet is a crap shoot if you see any content at all.

As user I dislike AMP because it adds a JavaScript requirement to read articles that don't have any JavaScript. There, I said it.

HN starts caring a lot about the integrity of the sacred HTML when it's their own content being mangled.

User experience is only valid as an argument in the context of that darn, biased "mainstream media" being dismembered by ad blockers, or held for ransom by "Brave".

What exactly are "leads" in this context?

The article heavily implies sales leads...collected email addresses to try and convert into sales.

They sell managed wordpress hosting.

However, their site doesn't appear to have much in terms of collecting leads. No newsletters, no trial accounts, etc. They just have paid plans you can sign up for. I guess the "contact us" page could be considered a lead generator.

So, I'm as confused as you are. Lead generation would be pretty bad if you don't collect leads :)

It’s been about a decade since Google provided a decent user experience for search. We really need an alternative.

That mostly offers the same functionality google does.

I’d love a search engine that gives users control over ranking, over whether the site runs ads, whether they are a business, whether they’re SEOd out the ass, by security, to blacklist results, to control how they’re displayed.

But of course none of these help display ads, so they have no value to companies.

> Our mobile leads dropped by 59.09%. Our newsletter email sign-ups from mobile dropped by 16.67%. Our account creations from mobile devices dropped 10.53%.

What happened to total leads/signups/creations?

This is a totally uncontrolled test. How do they know leads wouldn't have dropped anyways? Without an A/B test you can't draw any firm conclusions from this.

Please don't turn off AMP actually. Do I really want to sign up for your dumb site's newsletter, or get push notifications? Well, so far I've wanted to do that Literally Zero times in the past, so I'm gonna bet on no.

im surprised this is not banned in EU yet

Front end engineers are not selected for their skills in understanding algorithms and data structures. It's quite easy to speed up a web site if you understand how CPU works on a low level and how Javascript is compiled to machine code, but it requires a lot of knowledge.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18693451 and marked it off-topic.

Haha what? You absolutely do not need to understand how a CPU works to make a fast site. 90% of the job is getting rid of shitty third party ad and tracking code, something most front engineers don't control. Beyond that most is just sensible practices.

In depth knowledge of the DOM would serve you a lot better than knowing about CPUs. What triggers a repaint, how you can avoid it, and so on.

We were looking for someone to do basic web dev for us, but when our leading candidate failed to even derive KKT conditions from scratch in our interview we simply had to eject him from the candidate pool

Did you find someone? "basic web dev" and "derive KKT conditions from scratch" do not sound like combinations that I would expect to find often, but it's always interesting to hear about different industries/expectations out there.

Sorry it was a joke :)

Oh haha, it was an excellent joke then cause I lol'ed :-D

I am praying this is a joke.

The obsession with data structures and algos is getting out of control, cargo culting this idea around is going to lead to requiring an L5 to change a button color.

If setting the color theme for the company having a l7 make that choice would be reasonable. One site I worked on had 172 shades of the main color by engineers "guessed". An l6 spent over a year in comitte and editor dropping that to 16.

Very little knowledge is needed to know how to speed up a website (or keep it from becoming slow). Almost every front-ender I've met, including those who never got beyond inserting jQuery snippets, knows enough.

Speeding a site up is one thing. Speeding it up substantially is another and I doubt your example of one who only knows how to insert jQuery snippets knows enough to both understand and implement all the details from server to network to browser.

You don't need to know enough to understand and implement all the details from server to network to browser, you just need to know enough to remove the <script> tags related to ad networks and tracking to see huge load time and ux improvements.

It's not really the web developers who are the issue; they just implement what the people above them in the org chart wants. You could argue that the web developers should push back on it more than they do, but I don't buy that they're not knowledgeable enough to fix it.

That's not to say that there aren't actual technical issues; the recent trend of throwing front-end frameworks on content-heavy pages, making the users' low-powered phones parse and run hundreds of megabytes of JS before the page can be interacted with, is an example.

If one thinks all they need to do is remove javascript to speed things up substantially, then they fit into my category of people who only know jQuery snippets only think they know enough.

There are a multitude of issues that can be tweaked to speed things up more so than javascript elimination. You can switch to HTTP/2, implement server push, image compression, header compression, compressing HTML/CSS/Javascript downloads, preloading, above-the-fold downloads, and much more. A jQuery plugin user might not know half those things and I only mentioned maybe half the things one should know.

And none of the things you mention will amount to anything if the site is still pulling dozens of trackers and ad scripts.

The average JS dev (like average anything dev) may not write performant code, but the functional parts of the website are not where the main problem lies.

That is a business and design problem not a programming problem. And if one thinks the functional part of a web site cannot be tuned to substantially increase the speed of a web site then one is part of that jQuery plugin crowd who does not know or understand the pipeline from browser to network to server and back.

Website performance will be limited by the parts you're not allowed to improve, i.e. ad & tracking junk. It's basically Amdahl's law. I'd thought understanding that would be even more important.

From experience its not the tracking code that's the big slowdown, its poor page design, bloated implementation no you do not need custom fonts.

The worst culprit is not knowing how to use photoshop to optimise images properly.

Shouldn't you be using one of the command line image optimizers?

Yes and I have done ;-) but.

1 A lot of the front end production staff wont be comfortable using a cli - its designers that should be providing the images not developers.

2 Photoshop in some ways produces better results and is already part of the work flow.

While you're right that properly understanding the full stack can help with many optimizations, my point was that there is usually plenty of low-hanging fruit that can be plucked by non-experts to significantly improve site speed.

As such, sure, it's useful to know the details, but it's usually far from necessary.

One example would be lazy-loading of images. I've worked at multiple agencies that definitely knew how to do this, but didn't, causing in the tens of megabytes of unnecessary data. Even just a small change to the templates + a jQuery plugin could have solved this one issue.

Of course, there are lots of reasons why a lot of this low-hanging fruit is left to rot, but they're not primarily to do with the developer's ability to understand all those details that you describe as necessary.

That one won't or doesn't do the things to speed up a site has nothing to do with my point. After the low-hanging fruit, give your site to me and let's just see how much faster things will run.

In 16 plus years of consulting I have had precisely 2 occasions when I found a dev team that knew what they where doing.

My experience over a similar time period is that most of what appears to be dev team incompetence...isn't.

It usually maps to constraints they can't control.

> Very little knowledge is needed to know how to speed up a website (or keep it from becoming slow). Almost every front-ender I've met, including those who never got beyond inserting jQuery snippets, knows enough.

And yet somehow they decided to not use that knowledge until Google pushed them into corner.

The reason you're being downvoted is not necessarily because the first part of your broad sweeping generalization is always wrong. At least at the more junior levels, frontend focused engineers don't always have the same level of DS&A fundamentals as backend focused engineers. However, many engineers usually run into their first performance related issue in the first few years of their on the job experience, at which point they learn to speed things up.

It's in the second part of your statement where you're completely and totally wrong. Speeding things up on the whole does not require a lot of knowledge, and it does not require understanding how the cpu works at a low level and how javascript is compiled to machine code. Knowing how that stuff works can help you squeeze the last 1% of optimization out of code, but in practice, you get the first 99% of speed from decisions:

- Which frameworks do you use?

- What "add-ons" that are key to business do you end up embedding in the front-end and how much page size and slow down do they add?

- Where are your hot loops? Are you doing anything expensive inside them?

- Do you have things that are synchronous where they could be in parallel?

- How much eye candy are you adding to the page? Does it all need to be there?

- How much CSS are you using? Are you using it in a manner where CSS optimizations can do heavy lifting?

- What does the frontend and the backend API contract look like? Are there places where excess requests are occurring, and could they be rolled up so that there is less waste?

You may have noticed that many of these decisions boil down to architectural concerns as well as product and business level decisions, which are tangentially related to the labor of front-end engineering. I don't want to lob ad-hominems at people, but I find this kind of attitude one of the most tiresome parts about certain parts of the engineering community. There's this haughty, holier than thou mentality that places data structures and algorithms at the very top of engineering skills. There's a giant world out there where those skills are not at the top of the hierarchy, and actually are least useful because any sufficiently advanced development there ends up being commodified and available as open source software or as a paid SaaS (IE AWS).

Based on this short, flippant comment, it's obvious you actually have no idea how to actually speed up a web site because you have no idea about what the actual top ten things are that you'd do to speed it up in any kind of commercial production usage. What's even worse is that instead of trying to figure out something you don't know, you're instead making up an answer that sounds reasonable but is actually completely wrong and something any experienced frontend or full-stack engineer would understand is poor judgment and an ineffective approach. This is an extremely dangerous attitude to allow into an organization, because you end up with a culture where people are focused on one-upping each other and attempting to look elite as opposed to pragmatically arriving at the right approach for the problem, specific to all of its constraints. I've worked on these kinds of teams before, and it ends up being a miserable waste of time for everyone involved, and I've endeavored to work on teams that don't behave this way and to create teams that don't suffer from this.

Any engineer that gave this kind of a response to an interview question of "We've got a web app that's slow on the frontend and exhibiting XYZ symptoms -- how would you determine the root cause and diagnose it" would be rejected on the spot by me. That's the kind of attitude that can cause engineering organizations millions of dollars a year in engineering resource misallocation.

As a professional community, we need to evolve away from attitudes like yours. They symbolize an idealized, fictional world that is anything but the pragmatic reality of what good software engineering is.

Err you don't need to know how Js is compiled.

You need to understand how html css and js work and not cut and paste megabytes of cruft.

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