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Main article: Amp

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 29

AMP for email is a terrible idea

03:17 | 14 February

 Google just announced a plan to “modernize” email, allowing “engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences.” Does that sound like a terrible idea to anyone else? It sure sounds like a terrible idea to me, and not only that, but an idea borne out of competitive pressure and existing leverage rather than user needs. Not good, Google. Send to trash. Read More

 


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Why Google Stories will save, not screw, Snapchat Discover

23:35 | 13 February

 Snapchat has a new ally or enemy depending on how you look at Google’s new mobile magazine format, but the social app is welcoming the search giant. Google’s clone of Snapchat Discover called AMP Stories officially launched today, allowing news outlets to create photo/video slideshows that appear in mobile search results and on their site. Suddenly, Snapchat isn’t the only… Read More

 


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Google wants to use AMP to make email more interactive

17:00 | 13 February

Google’s AMP format has always been about making mobile pages render faster. But Google is now taking it beyond posts, recipes and how-to articles. First, the company launched the new AMP story format earlier today and now it’s also announcing a preview of AMP for Email.

At first, that may seem like an odd combination, especially given that few people complain about how slowly their emails render (they are mostly text, after all). Google argues that AMP is the right format to modernize email, though. “Many people rely on email for information about flights, events, news, purchases and beyond—more than 270 billion emails are sent each day,” Gmail product manager Aarash Sahney writes today. “With AMP for Email, it’s easy for information in email messages to be dynamic, up-to-date and actionable.”

Using AMP for Email, developers will be able to add an interactive calendar to your email, for example, so you don’t have to go through five rounds of back-and-forth messages to find a meeting time. Similarly, a message from your airline could show you up-to-date flight information or a marketer could send you a survey that you can fill out right in your inbox without having to go to another site.

Over the years, Google has launched numerous projects to modernize email. Back in 2013, for example, it launched customizable action buttons in Gmail. For the most part, though, emails haven’t really changed and every new format can only succeed if enough of Google’s competitors support it.

For now, AMP for Email is only available to developers who request preview access. The plan is to roll support out to Gmail later this year.

 


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Google takes AMP beyond basic posts with its new story format

11:30 | 13 February

For the most part, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project was about what its name implies: accelerating mobile pages. Unsurprisingly, that mostly meant quickly loading and rendering existing articles on news sites, recipes and other relatively text-heavy content. With that part of AMP being quite successful (if not always beloved) now, Google is looking to take AMP beyond these basic stories. At its AMP Conf in Amsterdam, the company today announced the launch of the AMP story format.

The overall idea here isn’t all that different from the stories format you are probably already familiar with from the likes of Instagram and Snapchat. This new format allows publishers to build image-, video- and animation-heavy stories for mobile that you can easily swipe through. “It’s a mobile-focused format for creating visually rich stories,” as Google’s product manager for the AMP project Rudy Galfi called it when I talked to him last week. “It swings the doors open to create visually interesting stories.”To launch this format, Google partnered with CNN, Conde Nast, Hearst, Mashable, Meredith, Mic, Vox Media and The Washington Post. Like all of AMP, this is an open-source project and publishers can extend it as needed.

The idea here is to start surfacing AMP stories in Google’s search results over time. For now, though, this is only a preview that is meant to give developers and publishers time to support this new format.

Indeed, the first thing publishers will likely notice, though, is that there’s no tooling yet for building AMP stories. To some degree, that was also the case when Google first showed AMP for regular posts, though developers quickly wrote plugins for all of the popular CMS systems to support it. “Publishers that have been working with AMP stories managed to build fairly easy integrations with their existing CMS systems,” Galfi told us.

Even once tooling is available, though, publishers will have to create AMP stories from scratch. They can’t just easily recycle an existing post, slap on an image and call it a day. The success of the AMP story format, then, is going to be about making the right tools available for building these stories without adding overhead of developers, who are not necessarily all going to be happy about the fact that Google is launching yet another format that it may or may not support in the future.

It’s also still unclear how Google will surface these stories in search and how publishers can ensure that they’ll be included here. Because these AMP stories live separate from regular posts, Google will likely give publishers another means of pinging it when new stories go live.

For now, if you want to try an AMP story, head here and search for one by the launch partners. You’ll find AMP stories under the new “Visual Stories from” header in the search results.

While I’m not sure if publishers will fully embrace this format, I have to admit that the existing AMP stories I looked at made for a nice diversion. The Washington Post used the format to experiment with a timeline of North Korea’s participation in the Olympics, for example. Vox, unsurprisingly, used it for explainers, among other things, and Mashable probably went further than most by using video, sound and animations across most of its stories.

 


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Google acquires Relay Media to convert ordinary web pages to AMP pages

00:24 | 10 October

AMP — Google’s collaborative project to speed up the loading time for mobile web pages — is getting an interesting acceleration of its own today. Relay Media, a company founded by an ex-Googler that had developed technology to help covert web pages to the AMP format, has been acquired by Google.

The company announced the news on its home page, to its customers (one of whom, Russell Heimlich, lead developer at Philly blog BillyPenn.com, tipped the news to us), and on its LinkedIn page. We have reached out to Google to get a statement and will update this post as we learn more.

For now, what we know is that it looks like Google may be closing down Relay Media as part of the deal but will continue to operate the service as the tech is transferred to Google’s platform. New-publisher onboarding will be put on hold for the time being, it seems.

“We’re excited to announce that Google has acquired Relay Media’s AMP Converter technology,” the company writes. “Service for current customers will continue uninterrupted as we transition the Relay Media AMP Converter to Google’s infrastructure. We’re pausing new publisher onboarding as we focus on the integration effort.”

The note to existing users had only slightly more detail: some contact addresses for support and the indication that new AMP features would continue to be supported with Relay Media’s converter for now, although also with a warning:

“There’s no detailed roadmap for how the Converter may evolve over time, but we can assure you that if there’s a material change, you’ll get at least 90 days advance notice so that you can plan accordingly.” Those who continue to use it are now subject to Google’s terms of service and privacy policy.

It’s an interesting development for AMP, which Google has been building over the last couple of years as it looks for ways to show that the mobile web remains a viable alternative to building native apps. (Why? Because Google makes a lot of revenue from mobile search, so more people opting to use apps means fewer people opting for Google’s mobile search.)

The fact that Relay Media has been acquired now by Google is not too much of a surprise: I’m not sure longer term whether a business model offering a standalone conversion technology to run pages in AMP would ever be as viable as simply being a part of the bigger platform for which the conversion was originally intended.

Originally aimed at publications on the web, AMP has more recently extended to e-commerce and other kinds of online content. Google earlier this year said AMP was used on more than 2 billion pages covering some 900,000 domains.

The promise of AMP is that pages using the coding can load twice as fast as regular pages, leading to less impatient abandonment by those trying to visit them.

The downside for publishers is that they have less control over how those pages look and can be monetized. One criticism has been that AMP pages (and their counterparts on other sites like Facebook’s Instant Articles) essentially take readers away from publishers’ own domains, and on to Google domains, and so the traffic becomes harder to measure.

Relay Media CEO and co-founder David Gehring has been involved in the AMP Project since its inception as an effort of the Digital News Initiative (DNI), a collaboration between Google and a group of leading European news publishers. Gehring is a veteran of Google’s partnerships team and of The Guardian, and continues to advise the founding European DNI publishers on a range of economic and digital platform initiatives.

Relay launched its AMP-centric startup and business in May of 2016.

“We actually see favorable currents amidst the troubled waters of the digital ecosystem for quality publishers,” co-founder and CEO David Gehring said at the time.  “More users encounter content on the open mobile web than on desktop browsers or apps, and total mobile ad spending is now outpacing desktop. Programmatic CPMs are rising for quality publishers and viewable impressions.

“Unfortunately publishers’ ability to compete for revenue and engagement is impeded by cluttered, slow-loading pages and non-viewable ads. AMP is a well-timed opportunity to course-correct, providing the instant experience users desire and a clean, well-lit environment for monetization.”

Gehring knew a thing or two about the predicament first-hand: he had been involved in AMP as a Googler during its earliest efforts, when it was being built in collaboration with a group of European publishers involved in the the Digital News Initiative. (The DNI was part of Google’s efforts to work better with these publishers rather than face the wrath of regulators or those publishers deciding to delist their content altogether from Google searches.)

Before Google, Gehring had worked at U.K. publication The Guardian.

Gehring still lists Relay as his employer on his LinkedIn profile. Others from the startup are already noting new roles at Google.

We’ll update this as we learn more.

 


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In iOS 11, Safari will strip out Google AMP links for shared stories

02:58 | 24 August

Anyone haunted by annoying link cruft will be relieved to hear that iOS 11 will transform Google AMP links back into their original forms when sharing a story from Safari. MacStories Editor Federico Viticci first spotted the change, which appears to be live in the new iOS 11 beta 7.

Google’s fast-loading AMP pages are ideal for platform-agnostic consumers looking for a quick read, but publishers tend to loathe them (with good reason). Pointing users toward Google domains instead of canonical links drains the natural search-driven traffic that was once the bread and butter of the online media world.

Earlier this year, Google announced that AMP links now load twice as fast thanks to image compression improvements and other under the hood tweaks. For the rest of us who favor purity over unbridled speed, this little iOS 11 change is just one more reason to look forward to September.

 


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Google and Facebook envision Stories for news, not social

00:36 | 5 August

 Stories taught us the joy of dictating the pace of content consumption. We fast-forward in 10-second increments, with a quick trigger finger let loose the moment we get bored. That’s why soon, endless paragraphs of text and time-consuming videos might not be the only ways to get the news. Read More

 


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Google brings expanded AMP support to search and display ads

21:14 | 23 May

When Google launched its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project about a year and a half ago, the focus was squarely on speeding up mobile web pages, with a special emphasis on news sites. Over the last few months, both the scope of supported pages and the range of places where Google surfaces AMP pages increased. Now, the company is taking the next step by using the technologies it developed for AMP to also speed up some of its core money-making services.

At an event in San Francisco, Google today announced that AdWords users will now be able to use AMP pages as the landing pages for their ads. In addition, Google said that it is now automatically converting Google Display Network ads into the AMP Ads format when they load on AMP pages to speed up their loading time, too. This feature is now available in beta.

AMP landing pages obviously load significantly faster than standard mobile web pages — typically in less than a second. And the faster those pages load, the higher the chance of converting a user into a customer. Google tested this feature with brands like Johnson & Johnson, eBay and real estate company Toll Brothers. “Johnson & Johnson has seen great results in testing AMP with our product information pages. For specific pages, we’ve seen page speeds improve by 10x and engagement rates improve by 20%,” Paul Ortmayer, Head of Digital Analytics – EMEA for Johnson & Johnson said in today’s announcement. “J&J is looking forward to expanding our application of AMP.”

As for AMP Ads, Google says that they will load up to 5 seconds faster than regular ads, even though they will look exactly the same. Google argues that this ensures that users will actually see these ads and “that the experiences users have with your brand is seamless.”

Earlier this month, at its I/O developer conference, Google announced that its newly optimized Google AMP Cache, together with a number of other speed-ups, allows AMP pages to load almost twice as fast from Google Search than before. The company also used the event to launch enhanced analytics support for AMP.

 


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Google’s AMP now powers 2B+ mobile pages and 900K domains, loads 2x faster

22:40 | 18 May

As Google looks for ways to keep people using its own mobile search to discover content — in competition with apps and other services like Facebook’s Instant Articles — the company is announcing some updates to AMP, its collaborative project to speed up mobile web pages.

Today at the Google I/O developer conference, Google announced that there are now over 2 billion AMP pages covering some 900,000 domains. These pages are also loading twice as fast as before via Google Search. Lastly, the AMP network is now expanding to more e-commerce sites and covering more ad formats.

The advances serve as a counterbalance to some of the controversy that Google and others have courted through initiatives like this, which are optimised for user experience, but have been criticised for pointing people essentially to Google/Facebook/other domains and therefore taking traffic away from the sites themselves.

In a blog post announcing the news — published on WordPress, possibly to underscore how Google is trying to show this off as a collaborative, cross-company initiative? — Google takes a page from the Amazon school of stats and declines to disclose what the actual page load time is now via Google Search for HTML pages encoded with AMP (short for accelerated mobile pages).

But it notes that the improvement comes from changes that have been made at the backend, specifically with the AMP Cache, reducing bandwidth for images by 50 percent; and implementing a new compression algorithm called Brotli that Google announced in 2015 that reduces document size by 10 percent.

The list of sites that support AMP, meanwhile, has now had a massive boost with some of the latest additions focusing on social networking.

Tumblr (which is owned by Yahoo, whose search engine points to AMP pages) is now pushing 340 million blogs and 500,000 domains to render in AMP on mobile. Twitter is also now linking to AMP pages in mobile web (when you click on links in Tweets), and plans to expand AMP links to its mobile apps soon.

In Asia, Tencent’s Qzone (the largest social network in China) and Weibo (the third largest) now also rendering mobile pages using AMP.

Now that Google has established the basics of how AMP works for a wide swathe of pages, it looks like it’s stepping up its commercial gears in AMP.

Specifically, it’s ramping up the number of e-commerce pages that are using the format, and it’s also expanding the number of ad units that AMP pages will support.

The e-commerce expansions include eBay, which first introduced AMP support on about 15 million pages about a year ago and is now expanding to “millions more” including all of its product pages with a specific focus on adding name-brands and “Interest” pages that aim to give users more targeted results rather than the hodge-podge that you might otherwise see on the site.

Others who are adding AMP include Zalando in Europe, Myntra in India, and AliExpress in China.

The ads initiative, meanwhile, applies much of the same principle as the general page-loading times to the concept of advertising. Specifically, today Google is introducing coding for three new ad formats:

This is significant because one main reason that pages have crept to a halt on the web is because of advertising and the large amount of bloatware that accompanies them to measure what we do.

It’s led many people to implement ad blockers or browsers like Opera that block ads for you.

For a company like Google, whose bread and butter is essentially online ads, this is an alarming trend, and so it’s no surprise at all that its efforts to improve the mobile user experience have moved into improving the mobile advertising user experience.

Of course, by writing the code for these new ad formats, it’s also putting itself in the middle of how those ads will be implemented, giving Google an ongoing place at the table for how the next generation of the mobile web will monetize.

 


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Microsoft wants to bring data and machine intelligence closer together

18:00 | 19 April

For Microsoft, the last year or so has been all about infusing its various products with “intelligence.” Those smarts may come in the form of advanced analytics or deep learning, but the main point here is that the company believes these techniques can solve major pain points for its customers, whether they are PowerPoint users or SQL Server admins. Today, at its Data Amp event, the company is launching a number of updates that make it easier for developers who use Microsoft’s tools to bring “intelligence” to their own apps.

At today’s event, Microsoft is launching updates to the preview of SQL Server 2017 (technically, this is the Community Technology Preview 2.0), which will likely become generally available later this year (no surprise, given its name), as well as its Cognitive Services. SQL Server 2017, it’s worth noting, is also the first version to run on Linux and in Docker containers.

As Microsoft’s Rohan Kumar, the company’s general manager for database systems, told me, the basics of database management have essentially been commoditized now. What users are looking for now is better ways to get value out of the data they are storing. What Microsoft’s partners were telling it was that it was still too hard to build intelligence into applications and that they wanted more of that intelligence to be directly available in the database.

So with today’s update, Microsoft announced that it is building support for Python right into SQL Server 2017. That may sound like a minor thing at first, but the vast majority of machine learning frameworks rely on Python. Making it easier to access Python scripts right from the database means it’s also easier to use machine learning techniques on this data instead of having to first move it out of the database, let it go stale and then try to build machine learning models on it.

Indeed, it’s this idea of bringing data and AI closer together that’s driving many of these decisions. As Joseph Sirosh, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for its Data Group, noted during a small press event in Seattle earlier this month, intelligence should “reside right next to the data. It should reside in databases. It should reside in applications that generate data. So bringing intelligence to our data platforms is an incredibly important part of our strategy.”

The advantage of bringing the intelligence closer to the data is pretty obvious in that you can run applications much faster when there’s less latency involved — and that’s especially true given that the data sets used for machine learning tend to be extremely large.

Besides the added support for Python, Microsoft is also improving its existing support for R — a language that’s extremely popular with data scientists — in SQL Server 2017. And as part of this, the company is adding pre-trained neural networks for sentiment analysis and image featurization right into R Server.

To make SQL Server 2017 more useful for more applications, the company is also adding new features for working with graph data to its database. This, the company says, will make it easier for developers to represent the hierarchies and relationships that already typically exist in these relational databases without having to go to a specialized third-party graph database.

Azure Cognitive Services, which makes pre-packaged machine learning models available to developers, is also getting an update today. That’s a minor update, though, and mostly focuses on the launch of the Face API, Computer Vision API and Content Moderator into general availability.

Other updates announced today include the general availability of the Azure Analysis Services and new templates for Cortana Intelligence Services that offer pre-built solutions for quality assurance and personalized offers.

All of these new features, though, are mostly a manifestation of the company’s overall vision to bring data and the intelligence to analyze it closer together.

 


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