Google Announces Service to Speed Loading of News Articles

Ravi Somaiya
Google headquarters in Mountain View, California
Getty Images

Google formally announced on Wednesday a new initiative, in partnership with Twitter and a broad selection of publishers, to ensure that news articles load more quickly on the web.

But one word was conspicuously absent from the presentation: Facebook.

Google, once seemingly unassailable as the way people found news online, has been surpassed by the social network. In July, according to, which tracks traffic to web publishers, Facebook passed Google for the share of traffic that is driven to publishers. It sends about 40 percent, compared with 38 percent for Google.

Publishers, many of whom have also signed up for a Facebook initiative called Instant Articles to host their material, also an effort to speed up the user experience, are also wary of giving the social network too much power.

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Google's alternative, called Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, gives an initial group of publishers, and anyone else who wants to use the software, which is open source, the ability to have their pages load faster on the web, through a browser. They are also able to use Google's cache — a means of loading pages ahead of time — to further bolster speed. The stories will work wherever they are linked — on Twitter or even on what executives on Wednesday called "other platforms." That was perhaps a reference to Facebook and Apple News, which are both closed systems that aim to keep readers, and advertisers, within their site no matter what content they are consuming.

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As web use migrates increasingly to smartphones — many publishers say 50 to 60 percent of their digital readers now come from mobile — people have spent less time on the web. This year, according to the research firm eMarketer, smartphone users in the United States are projected to spend 81 percent of their time using mobile apps instead.

That might also be a factor of increasing frustration with the web experience. A recent test by The New York Times found that news websites took up to 30 seconds to load their mobile home page — an eternity in a world where people browse casually when they have a spare moment. Cory Haik, an executive director at The Washington Post, who joined the Google presentation, said that some at her newspaper had taken to calling it the "world wide wait."

AMP was presented as a kind of corrective measure.

"We can make the web great again," said Richard Gingras, the head of news and social products at Google.

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The initial partners include The New York Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Vox Media, BuzzFeed and The Washington Post. A preview version of the service showed a carousel of news articles at the top of the Google search page, which could be scrolled through by swiping to the left on a smartphone. They loaded quickly, with little noticeable lag.

Google said its research also showed that, perhaps intuitively, people read more when pages load faster. The format also supports advertisements — a particular concern in recent weeks for publishers, as Apple has, for the first time, allowed iPhone applications that block unwieldy web advertising, simultaneously a source of frustration for readers and a source of revenue for publishers.

AMP will formally begin at a later date, the company said, and will immediately include about 5,000 articles daily.