Google had its 2019 ‘AMP Conf’ in Tokyo today, and announced a series of changes and new features coming to the company’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project. The most important announcement was that AMP pages will now show the original URL in the address bar, which should solve the platform’s greatest point of confusion — but it’s only making things worse.
When you tap on an AMP link from Google Search, you aren’t actually taken to the optimized page on the site’s own server. Instead, you get a cached version stored on Google’s own servers (to improve performance), with a bar at the top providing you with the original URL in case you want it.
Left: Normal article; Right: AMP article loaded from Google Search
Google began testing a possible solution last year. It would use a browser feature developed for Chrome called ‘Web Packaging,’ which allows sites to display content on behalf of other sites — while using TLS to ensure the content hasn’t been changed along the way. Web Packaging was enabled by default in Chrome 73, but Mozilla hasn’t yet decided if it will add Web Packing support to Firefox.
AMP pages are beautiful, but links to AMP pages? Not so much …
— AMP Project (@AMPhtml) April 17, 2019
The company announced today at AMP Conf that sites can now use Web Packaging with AMP. Now when users tap on an AMP page from Google Search, it will look like they were taken to the proper page (complete with the green lock icon), but they’re actually getting the AMP version served from Google’s servers. What’s more, with the information bar gone, it’s not clear how users can actually visit the original version of a page.
It’s extremely difficult for me to look at this any other way than a user-hostile ‘feature’ that fundamentally changes how the web works. One of the basic principles of the internet is that a URL tells you exactly where you are, but if you’re using Chrome, that’s no longer true.
The AMP versions of most pages are limited in functionality, so now users will be unknowingly stuck on an alternate version of the page they wanted to visit, with seemingly no way to see the real page. Want to use the comments section, but the site you’re visiting hasn’t added comments to the AMP version? Well, sucks to be you, I guess.
CloudFlare is rolling out support for AMP Real URL, so expect to see some of your favorite sites start to use it over the coming weeks. Now might be a good opportunity to check out DuckDuckGo and/or Firefox.