Kill it With Fire

In response to the anti-trust lawsuit filed against it, Google will no longer give favorable placement to media outlets that use its AMP HTML dialectt.

This is a good thing.

First, AMP sucks, second, it was an invitation for Google to violate user privacy and extend its ad and search monopolies, and third, AMP sucks:

Four years after offering special placement in a “top stories carousel” in search results to entice publishers to use a format it created for mobile pages, called AMP, Google announced last week that it will end that preferential treatment in the spring.

“We will prioritize pages with great page experience, whether implemented using AMP or any other web technology, as we rank the results,” Google said in a blog post.

The company had indicated in 2018 that it would drop the preference eventually. Last week’s announcement of a concrete timeline comes less than a month after the Department of Justice called Google a “monopoly gatekeeper to the internet” in a lawsuit alleging antitrust violations and as pressure mounts on officials in the European Union, which has already fined Google more than $9 billion for antitrust violations.

“I did always think AMP posed antitrust concerns,” said Sally Hubbard, author of the book “Monopolies Suck” and an antitrust expert with the Open Markets Institute. “It’s, ‘If you want to show up on the top of the search results, you have to play by our rules, you have to use AMP.’ ”


Whatever prompted the timing of the change, some news sites are relieved that they won’t have to keep using Google’s preferred mobile standard.

“We are encouraged to see Google beginning to outline a path away from AMP,” Robin Berjon, head of data governance at The New York Times, said in a written statement in response to questions from The Markup. “It’s important Google addresses the core challenge with the format, so that it is no longer a requirement for news products and performance ranking.”

News publishers and others have been griping about AMP for years. Some called it Google’s attempt to exert the same kind of control over the larger web that Facebook exerts over posts in its closed system.

That’s because AMP is more than just a set of formatting rules. Once a website sets up an AMP page, Google copies it and stores it on Google servers. When users click on the link for an AMP page in search results—or its news reading app—Google serves up that cached version from its servers.

“AMP keeps users within Google’s domain and diverts traffic away from other websites for the benefit of Google,” read a 2018 open letter signed by more than 700 technologists and advocates. “At a scale of billions of users, this has the effect of further reinforcing Google’s dominance of the Web.”


In an analysis published by The Markup earlier this year of 15,269 popular searches on Google, we found that AMP-enabled results appeared often, taking up more than 13 percent of the first results page. Google took another 41 percent of the page for its own products.


As the news industry struggled over the past decade, with dropping newspaper subscription rates and ad revenue and plateauing online traffic leading to massive job losses, many publishers adopted AMP in hopes that it would help their bottom lines. Most of the roughly 2,000 members of the News Media Alliance, a trade organization that represents newspapers, use it.

“They don’t really feel there is a choice,” said Danielle Coffey, the group’s general counsel and senior vice president.

Her opinion is widely shared.

“We essentially have a coercion by Google upon publishers to allow people to host their content,” said Andrew Betts, a former member of the Technical Architecture Group at the international web standards organization W3C, who has written about his concerns with AMP. “And publishers who decide they don’t want that to happen because they want to serve their own content, thanks very much, will not ever appear in the first set of search results.”


And AMP sometimes causes issues that publishers lack the power to fix on their own. In one prominent example, publishers discovered there was no way to allow users to opt out of having their data sold, a requirement under the California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect this year.

Talk about burying the lede.

AMP allows Google to take control of user data from media outlets.

Now we know why Google pushed it so hard, they wanted to slurp up more user data.

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