A new Google AMP update could transform our search results

14 Feb 2018

Google search on mobile. Image: Nuttapol Sn/Shutterstock

Google is the latest company to adopt the now ubiquitous ‘Stories’ format.

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project was launched a couple of years ago in an effort to speed up delivery of content on mobile devices.

You may have seen AMP articles in your various feeds denoted by a lightning bolt symbol, and many publishers have been taking part in the AMP project, which is open source.

Google wants to tell Stories, too

As more and more people consume content on mobile, Google has been working with publisher partners such as CNN and The Washington Post to develop one of its new projects: AMP Stories.

Much like Snapchat and Instagram’s features of the same name, AMP Stories aims to help publishers retain precious reader attention with more “immersive and easily consumable visual information”.

The publishers and Google wanted to ensure that the new way of storytelling would be “visually rich” and specifically designed for a mobile-first generation of readers.

Google began testing the Stories feature in Google Search yesterday (13 February), with users reporting seeing carousels of slideshow content created by one of the company’s publishing partners.

AMP Stories are coded and served with many of the same tools behind the creation of AMP articles – this means fast loading times and pre-rendered pages, creating an ostensibly seamless content experience for readers.

Most Stories will be a mixture of text, moving images and some video, with users required to tap right to go forward and left to go back. While Google said adverts will not be allowed in AMP stories at this time, there may be room for monetisation at a later date.

Only a small number of publishers are participating in the developer preview of AMP Stories and no date for a fully fledged launch has been announced yet.

AMP and email?

Google is also introducing AMP capabilities to Gmail in a separate developer preview, with a view to making email “more attractive and engaging”. Although emails are mostly text, meaning there are little complaints about images being slow to render, Google wants to modernise the format.

AMP for Email will allow for an interactive calendar to be added to your email account, keeping up to date with your flight information or purchases from within emails themselves. The whole idea is to allow users to complete tasks without leaving the email to do so. Developers who request preview access can have a look at the new features, with Google planning to roll out full support to Gmail later in 2018.

Companies including Pinterest and Booking.com are developing features for AMP for Email.

Gmail product manager Aakash Sahney said: “This new spec will be a powerful way for developers to create more engaging, interactive and actionable email experiences.”

However, some experts have criticised the concept of AMP for Email. Devin Coldewey of TechCrunch wrote of his concerns around the new feature and the possibility that it is an exercise in dominance for Google: “Google [is] exerting its market power to extend its control over others’ content. Facebook is doing it, so Google has to.

“Using its privileged position as the means through which people find a great deal of content, Google is attempting to make it so that the content itself must also be part of a system it has defined.”

Google search on mobile. Image: Nuttapol Sn/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects