AMP x Instant Articles: open war between Google and Facebook
Oct 30, 2015
AMP vs. Instant Articles: Google and Facebook Battle for Digital Dominance, Redefining the Content Landscape
The decade that saw Facebook grow from 5 million to 1.4 billion users, and Google go from 140 billion to 1.5 trillion searches per year, also marks a new era - an era of dinosaurs. But here, the reference to dinosaurs is not about obsolescence, but rather, gigantism. AMP and AI are the acronyms in the code war that is beginning. With numbers reaching global dominance, the two companies no longer want to be leaders, but rather, monopolists. And for this, they have already shown their weapons.
If once global moguls sought total dominance of their markets, they did so discreetly, even to escape the legal restrictions that arose after the war, but everything changed. “Competition is for losers”. The phrase that completely contradicts the principles of capitalism is a mantra in Silicon Valley, supposedly where capitalist competition would have its perfect example. Peter Thiel, one of the co-founders of PayPal and an aggressive investor in start-ups, was the one who mentioned it in a lecture, revealing that the true vocation of large corporations is the extermination of competitors. And this is true for any fight. Including the fight between Facebook and Google for all the traffic.
Instant Traffic (or better, Instant Articles)
Omnipotent in the field of social networks, Facebook has no apparent competitors. Virtually the entire content industry depends (or will depend soon) on the colossal volume of traffic that the platform can generate. Zuckerberg's dominance is such that he already places himself in the position of having the power to pressure publishers to place their content within Facebook if they want to continue to have the social network's cooperation in their traffic. The Instant Articles project, designed to "improve the user experience" (particularly on mobile devices, which is the scenario of all the dispute now), allows content generators to host their product on Facebook's servers, reducing the access time to it. Publishers can monetize 100% of the content, according to Facebook, but, naturally, everyone knows that the company's measure is not at all naive. Menlo Park's goal is not to be "on the Internet," but to be the Internet (a move consistent with the implementation of another Zuckerberg project, Internet.Org, leaving all publications in its hands. Instant Articles is a frontal attack on Google because if Facebook has the content and the user within its platform, Google can basically just watch the competitor's growth.
Google responded, and with a very elegant response. The attack on the 'Empire' is called Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, which consists of a new set of programming rules that simply prioritize the loading of the essential part of the content, to the detriment of 'shards' of programming that are not the core of the user's interest (like advertising tools). The elegance of Google's response is that the project's code is open, without making Google the 'owner' of the platform (although skeptics are not lacking arguing that AMP gives advantages to Google and is not a disinterested measure). Google denies that AMP is a response to Instant Articles, but, like the rhetoric of "improving the user experience," it is also a public relations mention.
AMP, Google's 'force field'
If Facebook takes the major content producers into its domains, Google will lose a huge part of the traffic. With AMP, the search company gave a boost to those content producers so they can optimize their users' experience without depending on Facebook. Neither Google nor Facebook will come to have a position of total control of the scenario. Historically (and even just in the technology field), companies that begin to distort the ecosystem of their industries end up being immobilized in their monopolistic vocation by new technologies, government legislation, and even activism by user groups or competitors to propose alternatives. However, the battle of the two digital giants will shape the future of the "open" content industry (which does not circulate behind paywalls, like Netflix, for example). The way to conceive content and make it available will undergo a major mutation and should generate a change in the way consumption platforms are assembled.
This 'genetic' mutation of the platforms will probably guide the Internet as a whole towards environments and players that are less individualistic and more "liquid," where the division between competitors becomes less evident. This scenario will not happen without friction, however. Another element, which is the growing omnipresence of adblockers, designed to hinder the display of advertising, will also make the outcome of the dispute more unpredictable. One thing is certain: the fight between the two dinosaurs will not kill or resize either of them, but it will redraw the content environment globally.