To save mobile web, we must destroy JavaScript, HTML and CSS

So say Google and pals as they launch Accelerated Mobile Pages project

Web browsers 2015

Alphabet's ads, search and cloud subsidiary Google has announced an open source project it hopes will speed web page load times on mobile devices: Accelerated Mobile Pages.

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project is driven by Google, with help from major publishers and the BBC. Early adopters include Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress.com, Chartbeat, Parse.ly, Adobe Analytics and LinkedIn.

The core of the project, available at GitHub, is AMP HTML: a spec that restricts some elements of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. AMP tech lead Malte Uble writes that Google and publishers asked themselves “could we develop a restricted subset of the things we’d use from HTML, that's both fast and expressive, so that documents would always load and render with reliable performance?”

The existence of AMP HTML tells you the answer was yes. Tests on the spec released today, Uble says, have shown speed improvements of between 15 per cent and and 85 per cent.

Banishing JavaScript is billed as a way to improve developers' ability to control page behaviour and load times, as multiple scripts in a single page mean “anything could happen at any time and it is hard to make any type of performance guarantee.”

That anything, Uble says, often means mobile web pages deliver a “jarring experience of janky scrolling and users needlessly losing their reading position.”

Janky? Not a word we know. But let's move on, because Uble says developers don't need to fret about the disappearance of JavaScript because because HTML 5 custom elements and Web Components can pick up the slack. For ads, iframes are pitched as the way to do the job (recalibrate your code, ad-block devs).

As ever, Google looks to be trying to have it both ways because while faster page load times and lighter-weight pages are undoubtedly a good thing for users, they're also a good thing for Android users and for Google in ad-slinging mode. Google spins better ad-slinging as good for publishers that, like The Reg, provide news for free. But the several pages announcing AMP make no mention of the fact that payments for mobile ads are miniscule. The publishing industry talks of having traded “analogue dollars for digital dimes and mobile pennies.” Faster page load times are desirable and will likely keep audiences around for longer. Whether they can deliver revenue is another thing entirely. ®

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