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DuckDuckGo and Brave Move to Bypass Google AMP Pages by Default

By 21/04/2022May 17th, 2022No Comments

Yesterday both DuckDuckGo and the Brave browser announced they will be bypassing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in favor of serving publishers’ content on the original URL.

Brave is calling the new feature “De-AMP.” In cases where it’s not possible to rewrite the URLS, the browser will watch as pages are fetched and redirect users, while preventing AMP code from being loaded and executed.

“AMP harms users’ privacy, security and internet experience, and just as bad, AMP helps Google further monopolize and control the direction of the Web,” Brave Privacy engineer Shivan Sahib said.

Brave is also working on a “debouncing” feature to protect its users against bounce tracking. It detects when a user is about to be passed through to a known tracking domain and skips the tracking site, delivering the user directly to the intended destination. This is currently available in the nightly version of Brave.

De-AMP is available in the Nightly and Beta versions of the browser and will be turned on by default in the next official release for desktop and Android, with a debut on iOS following after.

Shortly after Brave published its announcement, DuckDuckGo tweeted that its apps and extensions now also support bypassing AMP pages in favor of the publisher’s original URL.

“AMP technology is bad for privacy because it enables Google to track users even more (which is already a ton),” DuckDuckGo tweeted. “And, Google uses AMP to further entrench its monopoly, forcing the technology on publishers by prioritizing AMP links in search and favoring Google ads on AMP pages.”

Firefox has not announced plans to begin rerouting AMP pages, but Firefox users interested in having this feature can use the Redirect AMP to HTML add-on. Daniel Aleksandersen, the add-on’s creator, developed it to “keep the web decentralized” and deny information to “search engines that want to take control over the web.” It is used by more than 5,800 Firefox users.

Large publishers have been moving away from AMP after Google stopped requiring the framework for placement in its Top Stories carousel. The Wall Street Journal reports that Vox Media LLC (Verge, Vox and New York Magazine), Buzzfeed’s Complex Networks (Complex and Sole Collector), and BDG (parent company of Bustle, Gawker, Nylon and W.), have all begun testing or considering leaving AMP in favor of their own mobile-optimized pages. The Washington Post abandoned AMP in 2021. The publications’ executives anticipate that leaving AMP will give them more control over their mobile pages, ad formats, better prices for their ad space, and a better chance for paywalled sites to grow their subscriber bases.

Media executives now have a clearer picture of how Google intends to benefit from AMP after the DOJ’s unredacted complaint revealed that AMP pages brought 40% less revenue to publishers. The December 2020 lawsuit referenced internal documents obtained from Google showing that AMP’s speed benefits “were also at least partly a result of Google’s throttling. Google throttles the load time of non-AMP ads by giving them artificial one-second delays in order to give Google AMP a ‘nice comparative boost.‘”

In the wake of these revelations, and AMP no longer being required for the Top Stories carousel, publishers who adopted AMP, often at an enormous cost to themselves, are venturing out to see if they can better monetize their sites.

If you are one of the 500,000+ publishers who have invested in using the official AMP plugin for WordPress, it’s important to know that not all visitors will see AMP pages. The plugin’s Standard mode has only one theme that serves requests to a single AMP version of the website. As anti-AMP sentiment grows, and more apps, browsers, search engines, and users adopt ways to block or bypass AMP pages, it will become increasingly more important to maintain the non-AMP version of a website alongside the AMP version.