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A new AMP update shows how it can infiltrate every corner of the internet (onezero.medium.com)
179 points by cpeterso 59 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments

I think that the mobile trend was blown way out of proportion. I very often find myself clicking on the 'Browse desktop version' button when browsing a so-called 'mobile-friendly' version of a site. Is the look of the website really more important than the content and functionality? For me, it's not. This is just another example of a big tech monopoly imposing their highly opinionated ideas on billions of people.

Also, I hate it when a mobile site keeps reminding me to install the app. This is extremely mobile-unfriendly. Google ought to punish those sites.

Ironically, when Apple first launched the iPhone, full-size desktop viewing of websites was a major feature. It's strange that the world has reverted back into making an entirely separate mobile internet.

> I think that the mobile trend was blown way out of proportion

This is an extraordinarily location-specific sentiment. In the country I'm in right now, less than 25% of the population have desktop PCs. Everyone has a smartphone, if not two. Most of the world is like this, especially the developing countries with the most future growth potential.

I think the parent's point is that desktop sites are often good enough even on mobile. Mobile sites, on the other hand, seem to often lack in functionality.

But most purely desktop sites, are in fact, not anywhere close to good on mobile.

A good test is: do you need to zoom in and then pan horizontally to be able to read the content?

Personally, I don't even mind panning around across both axes and zooming in but I may be a minority in that respect. Probably a large minority nonetheless.

On Android/Chrome, the experience is not bad. When you load the desktop site, it looks very small but you see the whole thing. Then you can zoom in and pan using your fingers... Not so different from how you use Google maps. It's just a tiny bit slower than on desktop; but everything on mobile is slower than on desktop anyway including typing.

If you're already loosely familiar with the site's UI, it's not difficult to use. Even if you have big finger, you can just zoom in first and then click. It's a quick two-step gesture which is easy to master.

You are an outlier. Most people will not pan around to read an article - they'll just switch to an app instead of the web.

Are you sure?

Content monitizers are heavily incentivized to switch users from web to app.

So is this user-orginated or owner-pressured?

Even if it is owner-pressured, over time people grow accustomed to the linear presentation that's dominant in apps. People like when new stuff works like stuff they already know.

As another "outlier" who doesn't mind panning around to read an article (though i do prefer if i don't have to), do you have a source about the behavior of those fabled "most people"?

> Personally, I

There's your problem

Reddit is the main site I use on my phone and I certainly use it in desktop mode all the time. I even use Google in desktop mode very often, because desktop mode lets me select arbitrary dates in results, whereas the mobile page gives me a limited selection.

They need you to install their app so they have better control over your device without those pesky browsers with their plugins blocking adds or privacy infringements.

The worst is the "mobile-first" approach which makes the desktop version suffers. Reddit's new redesign looks terrible on a 21:9 screen. Most content is centered on 1/3 on the screen. So much wasted horizontal space.

I'd say the redesign actually makes Reddit usable on a 21:9 screen not the other way around. I mostly browse text based subreddits so entire paragraphs becoming one long line which to read you have to move your head is more annoying. The redesign makes the site usable on more than a 5:4 or 4:3 monitor for which the original version was designed for.

I dont even think people complained about mobile articles being slow. Sure , there are many bad cases where sites autoplay videos etc. but it’s equally bad in their desktop version (where s the amp there?). A few seconds to load an article on mobile is normal, considering that reading the article will take entire minutes. The probability of needing 1-2 seconds per page applies only when someone is skimming through multiple pages for research. The possibility of doing that on mobile is small, and these are users you dont want visiting your site anyway. Imho google built a honeytrap and is going to get away with murder because, when they will be fined for this, it will be already too late.

I hope developers wake up to this reality. Since that is not going to happen, i hope they abuse amp as bad as they abused html , rendering it useless

Not a trend, they rank AMP sites higher

Yet another HN user talking about their use case. 99% of people are not your typical HN user.

So, 99% of people care more about aesthetics than about than content? Got anything to back that up?

It's also about UX, accessibility, readability etc which often become a mess if you browse the desktop version on mobile. I also resort to the desktop version sometimes but it's very seldom the mobile version is actually missing content. Besides, I think most people have no idea that "Browse desktop version" even exists.

> I also resort to the desktop version sometimes but it's very seldom the mobile version is actually missing content.

Lol. I don't remember the last time I came across an AMP page that wasn't missing content.

Do you have any examples? I think it's a separate topic though (AMP compared to mobile sites in general).

I'm surely still not in the 99% but honestly there's hardly any content that individually actually matters to me, it's almost all info-tainment. If it's hard to read then I won't bother at all.

There's exceptions like restaurant menus at specific places that I'm considering, but certainly there's no mainstream news article that's worth me staining my eyes over: if it loads a desktop site on my mobile phone I'll definitely just hit back and move on regardless of the content.

It's sort of like saying 99% of cattle prefer the chute that brings them most efficiently to the killing grate. It isn't really about what they want, just about how they behave.

Exactly. Privacy and revenue-leeching issues aside, as an end user, I love AMP. Near-instant loading of articles with all the horrible bullshit and clutter removed? What's not to love?

I constantly find myself closing pages on mobile within the first second if they're taking too long to render or if they become fucked up from all the ads and comments and social media button, each one dislocating other elements and moving them around as it renders, or just because they were poorly designed for mobile.

There's a huge chunk of content I never bother to see because it's too much of a pain in the ass to actually read on my phone. If I have to adjust the zoom or scroll to a different part of the page to see any text, you've probably already lost me, unless it's content I went out of my way to seek out.

Basically (since most people won't use the features of the desktop version and would be severely slowed down by it on mobile): Yes.

> Is the look of the website really more important than the content and functionality?

If 99% of people don't agree with this, then why are we wasting time with AMP? AMP's primary sales-pitch to end-users when it first came out was that pages would be faster and content would be more uniform, because site operators wouldn't be allowed to add custom styles and flashy controls or widgets.

I just tried to browse while not logged into HN. The issue persists.

99% of the people who don't care about the content are more important than the 1% who do? What if it were 51%? How is it supposed to move, if the standards-setters don't move the passive consumers?

for example the mobile version of facebook, doesn't let you see messages. The desktop one does and works fine.

I've been able to see/send messages from the mobile site recently actually.

I might finally be able to remove the Messenger app from my phone as well.

Me too. I think I was using fb with the mbasic.facebook.com URL.

Google intentionally gimps Firefox on Android, by serving an old-school page. Using an addon (which you can on mobile Fx, and not on Chrome), fixes this by editing the UA string when visiting Google.

Getting the "nice experience", however, gives me amp links. And when I click on them, I'm unable to scroll?! It doesn't matter if it loads fast, when I cannot read beyond the fold.

It also breaks the "open in app" I normally have. If the link is a reddit link, for instance, I can press an icon in Firefox to have it open in "Reddit is fun".

There is a bug report [1] that tracks Google serving a second tier search experience for Firefox for Android.

Google has been dragging their feet for years on this one, and it perfectly fits their "oopsies" pattern of behavior [2], which ends up hurting their competition.

[1] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=975444

[2] https://www.computerworld.com/article/3389882/former-mozilla...

This is yet another case where Google probably has minimal to no benefit from doing it, but when produced collectively with other evidence in an anti-trust case will do an incredible amount of damage.

Believe it or not but the web is literally unusable if I use any other browser not based on chrome because:

- The search is degraded (it hides the advanced search menu in Google and most dropdowns in ff)

- Most of the sites use Recaptcha or cloudflare (also an extension of recaptcha) which gives you a low bot score if you're using anything other than chrome and then begins the never ending exercise of identifying cars and traffic lights

- I think web devs are also only testing for chrome nowadays and a lot of big and small sites just won't render properly with FF (the PH menu won't open on ff android for me unless I change the ua). It's not always chrome's fault though as many sites (like dictation.io) insist I use chrome because ff still won't support some web apis.

None of those are true in my experience using Firefox or Safari. I don’t know if you are using extensions or something like Tor but it might be worth trying again in a clean install.

Idk, but this has been a pet peeve of mine for a very long time now and I've posted about it before also with screenshots [1] and lot of people have agreed they have faced the same problems and we had a long discussion about it.

So there is definitely truth in it.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20295333

I’m definitely not saying that you aren’t experiencing it, only that it’s uncommon and usually seems to be triggered by using a VPN or other shared connections.

Using neither. No addons or vpn or anything. Can't really say about shared connections if that is something my ISP is doing but the point is shouldn't vpn or shared connections affect chrome browser equally? Yet this only happens when using ff.

If you read the thread above a lot many people face this too, so at least this Recaptcha bs is quite true and prevalent.

can't be that "literally unusable" since I've been using FF for over 10 years and never had any of these issues

The only ones i come in contact with are horrible captchas on FF and god awfully slow gmail(that looks loaded but takes minutes(!) to work)

Are you using a VPN or other high-latency connection? In a clean Firefox install, Gmail takes a couple seconds to be usable — not as fast as I'd like but nowhere near a minute even on marginal WiFi.

I occasionally have captcha issues (which usually ends with me leaving the site altogether) but it's likely due to all the addons I have like uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger. Google desperately wants to know who you are and where you're going. Annoying captchas are the response to saying "none of your business"

The ReCaptcha annoyance has gotten better for me recently. In about 50% of cases, I get the green checkmark without having to solve any puzzles.

This just makes Google look bad. Don't use it. DuckDuckGo delivers a much better experience.

The amp problem I have on Firefox for Android is that AMP links to TomsHardware articles never load. I have to re-write the URL to replace "amp" with "www" to be able to read an article.

Can you place share how you find a Tom's Hardware AMP page? I work at Mozilla and would like to test this. Google Search in Firefox for Android just returns regular www URLs. If I manually change "www." to "amp." (reversing your fix), I get a 404 page, not an AMP article.

Edit: I copied an AMP URL (https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.tomshardware.com/...) from Google search in Chrome. I posted email it into Firefox and it redirected to a www. page on tomshardware.com that loaded successfully.

YouTube's management UI's performance in Firefox has been terrible since the Polymer migration (a baffling choice since Polymer was already clearly a failed initiative when they undertook that migration) and looks like it will never be fixed.

Hangouts-in-Gmail has had a memory leak in Firefox for more than a year eventually freezes its tabs.

When you're a monopoly, you can get away with a lot.

Google's not done 'til only Chrome runs.

I've published AMP only sites and regular optimized sites. My niche is usually large informational sites. Minifying and removing unused CSS and inlining everything has resulted in better indexing than similarly positioned AMP sites.

The resulting pages are smaller than their AMP equivalents and load with less requests.

On my non-news sites I can say that I get more traffic without AMP.

I have to give it to Google for such brilliant scheme to make use the current web clutter to its advantage, but we all know the dangers of this if left unchecked.

The web doesn't need AMP to be fast, it needs common sense which has left the building once ads and tracking became the goal.

Talking about a crappy web technology using Medium

Just thinking that... I find medium worse than amp... at least amp doesn't show pop ups to join or subscribe...

But AMP sites pretty much require you to get out of the AMP site to work properly. Closing a pop up is no harder than that.

I'm all for bashing AMP but I can't remember a single time I've had to get out of AMP to get it working. Do you have any examples?

Literally every page on the Guardian, as the AMP pages don't include comments?

i wouldn't exactly consider comments not loading to be a "broken" site... Granted, its handy on some sites, but meh on most...

Thank you.

Try reading a thread on an AMP search result from reddit. Most of the comments will be missing.

Yeah the first thing is an interstitial asking me to sign up with google.

Doesn't happen for me. Using noscript.

The sad truth is, the 'modern' web is rotting. AMP is just a symptom of a growing problem.

The thing is AMP can be it's own problem regardless what the "modern web" does.

I have no trouble getting websites with good web performance to rank above AMP results. I like to think I have beaten them even when I'm slightly below them, because they trap their visitors in the AMP silo, while I am offering them a full site with probably better performance overall.

The only reason to offer AMP is to get into the news caroussel.

Just wait until they dial up the preference for AMP.

I'm going to make a rare exception to my usual hating on Google, and say that AMP is great for users.

I'd like to see a move back to a document-based web rather than a web-application-based web: CSS and JavaScript have not been good for users. A document-based web allows users to pull down content and render it on their machines using programs users control. Coupling content with CSS and JavaScript means that users must use a website's CSS and JavaScript to render the content, which means that users must give up control of how the content is rendered. The results are predictable: most websites have crap accessibility, run a bunch of malware[1] that has nothing to do with rendering, and have user interfaces are all over the place (every website is different so you have to learn a new interface every time you visit a new website, even if they're presenting the same kinds of content).

Why should we let websites determine how content is rendered? I can pull down an AMP page and view the content the way I want to view it, so this gives me as a user a lot more power.

Sure, the most common case right now is that Google renders it on their page, and that gives power to Google. But that's just trading one evil (Google) for another (content providers who package content with malware)--as a user that's not really a net gain or loss. But having content shipped in a more document-based format is a big gain for users.

[1] Code which runs on my computer to show me ads is adware. Code which runs on my computer to send data about me to companies is spyware. If these were written in Python and packaged with a desktop program everyone would call them adware and spyware, but if they're written in JavaScript and packaged with a web application they're ubiquitous and accepted.

So google chrome hides www and m in the domain, will Google replace AMP domains as well?

> That signature is all a modern browser (currently just Chrome on Android)

That's a very interesting definition of modern browser.

They are building another monstrosity to be able to masquerade as your entire domain. But it is optional , of course /s

Website authors opting in to letting another server serve content "as" their own domain isn't anything new: it's what CDNs do. The Signed Exchanges standard is actually a huge step up because the website authors get to cryptographically sign their content. With normal CDNs, if the CDN is malicious or gets hacked, the CDN is free to serve modified content on the original domain.

> Signed Exchanges standard is actually a huge step up

Signed exchanges is considered harmful by Mozilla.[1]

* * *

[1] https://mozilla.github.io/standards-positions/

"Harmful" is a rather poor summary of [their actual position][1], which is closer to "this is a big change and we don't know what kind of effect this will have, so we're going to wait and see":

> There is a lot to consider with web packaging. Many of the technical concerns are relatively minor. There are security problems, but most are well managed. There are operational concerns, but those can be overcome. It’s a complex addition to the platform, but we can justify complication in exchange for significant benefits.

> [...]

> Big changes need strong justification and support. This particular change is bigger than most and presents a number of challenges. The increased exposure to security problems and the unknown effects of this on power dynamics is significant enough that we have to regard this as harmful until more information is available.

I think that's a reasonable position. I certainly wouldn't summarize it the way they did though.

[1]: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ha00dSGKmjoEh2mRiG8FIA5s...

Yet they didn't consider Cliqz harmful when they shipped that. Pot calling the kettle black, I'm using IceCat where possible instead.

I can already smell the fake news from hacked keys, and authoritarians demanding keys from media sites. Congrats, we found just another way to break the resilience of decentralisation

If an attacker gets a key for a site, I believe they can only serve the Signed Exchange claiming to be the site to a user if the user is at the attacker's own site and then navigates from there to the victim site. And then if the user refreshes, I assume that might force the request to go to the real site.

If an authoritarian can man-in-the-middle network connections and demand keys, it would be much simpler to just MITM the sites without doing anything with Signed Exchanges.

A CDN that you have no choice but to use if you want to reach mobile users, otherwise your site will be so artificially de-ranked nobody will click it.

A CDN where active content is extremely limited, and advertising is effectively limited to Google.

A CDN entirely under control of the biggest search engine, who has a direct, a perverse incentive to take as much traffic from you as they can (see info boxes).

Presenting Google AMP as "just" a CDN is very dishonest.

I'm confused. The title of this article isn't at all supported by its content. The entire thing can be summarized as:

> Google rolled out a new feature that allows AMP to use server-side rendering (SSR), boosting performance for sites that adopt the technology across their entire domain.

Followed by a dozen paragraphs arguing why AMP is bad, with no further mention of server side rendering or why it "shows how [AMP] can infiltrate every corner of the internet". Is there anything new here, or is this just another rehash of the same arguments we've been having about AMP since the day it was released?

Is there any irony in this? SPAs are often the pages which are excessively heavy. Not saying it can't be done well. Just that these pages are frequent offenders.

What would it take to get the internet community to really see the danger of AMP?

Some kind of social media campaign?

AMP will rot away a free and open internet. The internet will be turned into a walled garden for Google/Alphabet's sole benefit. (or at least a large enough chunk of it to make avoiding Google/Alphabet nearly impossible)

Edit: clarity.

What is the AMP update this article was speaking of?

It's literally mentioned and linked to in the first paragraph.

ah that's nothing. Wait until google launches accelerated desktop pages

And then accelerated shopping results. And then accelerated signups.

I really do wonder how long it will take everybody to realize that Google is the ultimate computer virus.

>server-side rendering

Oh, that's shiny new technology. Call me when we have 3d buttons back.

AMP isn't all bad. SXG from AMP will enable advanced P2P CDN tech to flourish. Unfortunately Mozilla has decided to not support it.

I'd honestly love to see domain-signed pages being distributed over IPFS.

it's like we learned nothing from the wml fiasco and are jumping both feet in the same system with the same shortcomings

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