Launched two years ago to speed up content delivery on mobile devices, Google's AMP Project has been updated to support more visually engaging and immersive storytelling. Google is also bringing the format to Gmail to help make email messages more interactive. But there's a downside, as well, that can't be ignored.
First, let's look at the upside, as Google presents it.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are designed with HTML tags that optimize mobile content delivery. Unlike Facebook's content publishing platform or Apple News, AMP is an open source project that can be used by publishers on any site.
Unveiled today, Google said its new AMP story format was developed with the help of publishing partners such as CNN, Mashable, Vox Post, and The Washington Post. Also announced today, AMP for Email is available for testing through a Gmail Developer Preview and is expected to roll out for general Gmail users later this year.
'Fast, Smooth, Visual Stories'
AMP's new story-focused format is aimed at helping publishers grab and keep readers' attention with more "immersive and easily consumable visual information," AMP product manager Rudy Galfi said in a Google Developers blog post today.
"The mobile web is great for distributing and sharing content, but mastering performance can be tricky," Galfi wrote. "Creating visual stories on the web with the fast and smooth performance that users have grown accustomed to in native apps can be challenging. Getting these key details right often poses prohibitively high startup costs, particularly for small publishers."
Designed to make visual storytelling easier on mobile devices, AMP stories provides publishers with templates that can be adapted according to brand and style needs, Galfi added. While the format's early adopters include publications such as Cosmopolitan, People, and Wired, it's available for others to try on their own Web sites, he added.
For Emails that 'Never Get Stale'
Google says it aims to bring similarly engaging storytelling capabilities to email through its AMP for Email spec. Available for testing by developers who sign up for the Gmail Developer Preview, the spec is set to be supported for regular Gmail users later this year, Gmail product manager Aakash Sahney said today on Google's G Suite Blog.
"This new spec will be a powerful way for developers to create more engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences," Sahney said. "For example, imagine you could complete tasks directly in email. With AMP for Email, you'll be able to quickly take actions like submit an RSVP to an event, schedule an appointment, or fill out a questionnaire right from the email message."
Eventually, AMP for Email could allow content creators to continue updating information in previously sent emails for messages that "never get stale and the content is accurate when[ever] a user looks at it," Sahney added. According to Google, companies currently testing AMP for Email include Booking.com, Doodle, and Pinterest.
While Google's introduction of AMP for Email is all rosy, some say that's just marketing spin to push the company's own advertising agenda.
Devin Coldewey of TechCrunch writes that "AMP for email is a terrible idea," advising: "Not good, Google. Send to trash."
By putting applications into Gmail, Google gains access to even more user data about the viewer that can and will be used for ad-serving purposes.
"That's how Google wants to 'modernize' your inbox," writes Coldewey.
It's more like 'monetizing' your inbox for Google's own profit.
Coldewey asks: does the idea of "'engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences' ring a little different now?"
"Don't use this. Don't encourage it," he writes. "AMP and other initiatives like it are already a blight on the web, and they will be equally bad for email."
We're facing a slippery slope toward total loss of privacy, as Google, Facebook, and other tech giants tweak their systems to control more and more of our personal data.
Image credit: Product shots by Google; iStock/Artist's concept.