Power in an Open Web: Chartbeat and the Google AMP Project

October 7th, 2015 by Tony

The refrain is that when it comes to mobile the open web has had its moment and just can’t compete in a world of apps. While apps and the content within those apps (like Facebook’s Instant Articles) load blisteringly fast for a seamless user experience, the open mobile web is lethargic at best, weighted down with redundant code, crappy ads, and too many trackers. When we should be marveling at the instant access to the sum of the world’s knowledge from a device the size of a slice of bread, we spend our time staring frustrated at a loading bar and often just give up.

We have a choice.

We can choose to see the open web as a relic of its time and flee to the warm embrace of platforms and apps. Or we can say that the open web means something important to the world and if it’s broken it’s our job to fix it. I think we should fix it.

The open web has offered equality of access and information to the world. It’s meant that a generation’s unfiltered voice could make itself heard. It’s led to one of the greatest explosions of innovation the planet has ever seen. That wasn’t an app. That was all of us. And that’s important.

That’s why Chartbeat is — and I personally am — proud to partner with Google and many other media and tech companies to support and build the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project. It’s our attempt to fix the mobile experience and ensure the future of the open web.

What is AMP?

The AMP project is an open source initiative to deliver a significantly lighter-weight version of a webpage so that content on that page loads instantly, regardless of mobile, desktop, or any other format. It solves this problem at the page-level, not the platform-level. That means no matter if you discovered an article on Twitter, Globo or the Guardian; whether you open it with Chrome or Firefox; or whether you’re reading it on your iPhone or Droid, if the content was created in an Accelerated Mobile Page, you’ll have the same lightning-fast performance. It shouldn’t matter where you came from, you should get the same perfect user experience.

From the content-creator and publisher perspective, open really means open. Anything you publish using AMP HTML will look the same and load with the same speed no matter where or how your readers read it. It’s not a Google-specific link or a fix for only Twitter readers. It allows all of us to use the same open tools to create sophisticated reading experiences for the same open web.

How is Chartbeat involved?

Richard Gingras at Google reached out to us and asked us to be the founding analytics partner for the AMP project. I’ve always believed in the open web (my first startup was an ill-fated attempt to make OpenID popular) and we leapt at the chance to make the web better.

Our particular piece of the puzzle is working out how to make sure that analytics can have as close to zero effect on page load as possible.

Right now, when websites load, multiple analytics services load code that does largely the same thing. That means slower pages in exchange for little positive effect. It would be much better to have just one super-fast snippet of code load and report back on what’s happening on the page. That’s our job to figure out. We’ll be working to shape the universal metrics AMP will report on.

Our goal is to be able to enable the same level of insight for media companies while dramatically improving user experience.

What do we hope will come of this?

We hope the different media companies and tech services that support them can come together around this open-source standard and build a web we can be proud of. Just like the open web, anyone can create a page using AMP, whether you are a blogger in New Zealand or a mogul in New York. With the industry coming together around common standards it means that improving the page load of Vox also improves the page load of the New York Times. It becomes less about any one site becoming better and more about the entire web experience getting better.

At its core it’s a simple mission. Letting the web once again become a source of wonder rather than a source of frustration.

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