Google is rolling out a pretty important update to its AMP program. The newly made changes to the AMP integration with Google search will now let you view, copy and share the publisher’s own canonical link — instead of the shortened, AMP web address.
Announcing the change, Google said:
Today, we’re adding a feature to the AMP integration in Google Search that allows users to access, copy, and share the canonical URL of an AMP document.
Okay, so before delving into the why and the how, a little bit of background is in order. Google AMP is the search engine giant’s project that aims to make the web a friendlier page for mobile browsing. Recognizing the increasing importance of smartphones with respect to the Internet, Google started “Accelerated Mobile Pages” initiative, that seeks to make web browsing via mobile — a better experience.
These pages as the name implies, were “accelerated” and were free of third-party scripts and other things that can slow down the webpage when you are browsing via a mobile device. So yes, Google was doing a pretty great job by making it easier for the audience to reach publishers.
However, you are likely to be misunderstood even when you are Google, and have the best of intentions. Sharing a page through its AMP link shortened the URL and actually changed it. The new URL had “Google” in it. This led to rumors that the search engine giant was attempting to “steal traffic”.
These rumors weren’t true, considering that the audience was still sent to the publisher’s page. However, rumors have a nasty way of spreading and before you knew it, there were a bunch of disgruntled publishers expressing their concern over the URL shortening system and claiming that Google was stealing their traffic.
And to be fair, their concerns did have some basis — though not in the way that most of them were clamoring about. As per Google:
URLs and origins represent, to some extent, trust and ownership of content. When you’re reading a New York Times article, a quick glimpse at the URL gives you a level of trust that what you’re reading represents the voice of the New York Times. Attribution, brand, and ownership are clear.
So, basically you had three different kinds of URLs, that tended to make things very confusing.
All of these were necessary in their own ways. While you can get into the details associated with the importance of these different types of URLs right here, the long and short was that it allowed Google to present the content before the audience, faster.
However, Google is making a couple of changes to address all problems associated with canonical and non-canonical URLs for webpages.
The changes are as follows:
- An anchor button in the AMP Viewer header on Google Search. This feature allows users to use their browser’s native share functionality by long-tapping on the link that is displayed.
- Leverage upcoming web platform APIs. One such API is the Web Share API that would allow AMP viewers to invoke the platform’s native sharing flow with the original URL rather than the AMP viewer URL.
So basically, the company is trying to ensure that there is no confusion as to what is the source of the webpage for the audience. It is also making sure that users are able to see and share the original links to the publisher’s web page at all times, instead of the shortened URL. While the rumors of AMP URLs stealing traffic were just rumors, the move would let audience be more aware of their source. It may also prompt more publishers to join the AMP bandwagon — as some had held off because of their suspicions of AMP URLs.
The new features have already been made available on the iOS Google app. You can expect them to roll out to the Android version over the next few weeks. In the meanwhile, you can read a lot more about the AMP program and how the different types of URLs are important in keeping everything running at top speed, by visiting this page.