Have you ever noticed those white lightning icons within a circle on Google’s mobile search results pages? Give it a try by Google searching something on your phone right now. I first saw them a few years ago in the beta version of the Google app on my phone, and felt immediately curious about what it stood for. Tapping on the link next to the icon brought me to the site in question like any other link would. However, I immediately noticed two things different about the web page: 1. The entire page loaded within three seconds, 2. The page was formatted to be viewed perfectly on a mobile screen with no zooming or fitting required. I think the use of this subtle icon, while seemingly minor, acknowledges a tectonic shift in the way we, as a society, consume information. No longer do we sit hunched over our laptops or desktops at home or in a coffee shop. Today, we flip through articles primarily on our phones while sitting at a bus stop, train station, or while walking to our next class. In fact, we are so accustomed to mobile consumption that Google has recently changed their search rankings to acknowledge this new trend.
Google’s AMP Project, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, serves to provide faster content delivery in a format that is best-suited for garnering increased user engagement in the mobile-first era. This means no obstructive pop-up ads, spending minutes for a page to load, or dealing with annoying autoplay videos. More importantly, this also means a standardization of web page formatting. This is so crucial because, as our attention spans become ever-shorter, we are becoming less inclined to wait for a content-heavy page to render properly on our devices before impatiently tapping the Back button to look for another option. While we may find some suitable substitute, this could mean forsaking richer and more accurate content for the sake of accessibility, which shouldn’t be a tradeoff we have to make. With the abundance of misleading news sources and erroneous headlines taking center-stage as of late, a substitute these days could lead to formulating an incorrect opinion about a trending topic, leading us to believe the wrong kinds of information due to the biases we create.
To me, what makes these initiatives special is that we are experiencing a great leap in accessibility for accurately-created and responsibly-sourced content that empowers us to make decisions at an even faster rate than we have ever been able to. In our fast-paced lives where each new story clamors for our attention, it has become increasingly important that the sources we choose for our information are formatted in a way that allows us to effortlessly view them on our primary medium, which are now phones. This decreases the chance of misinformation spreading, and encourages responsible journalism and content-creation for those in the publishing field, characteristics that have sadly become less abundant in the news industry than they once were. While I’m sure there are merits to using Twitter as a news source, some stories can and should take a longer length to properly develop. To this end, I think AMP-compliant pages will bridge the gap between Twitter-length headlines and full-length news articles, a comfortable middle ground that allows us on-the-go information-addicts to be richly informed without being overloaded.