"Back at the beginning, it was pretty much assumed that the web couldn't do any of this," Besbris says. Ubl and his team came up with that combination of technologies that made it possible, but it required technology that isn't really built into the web right now. So Google faced a choice: take the time to try to convince the web standards body to adopt it and browser makers to support it or just go ahead and put it out in the world as a mostly Google-backed project on Google's own products, primarily search.
"We need a vehicle to actually figure it out. You can't just know it without trying stuff," Besbris argues. Google had to prove that the web could be as good as Instant Articles. More importantly, it had to get as good quickly — before people abandoned it for a million different custom apps and article formats. Besbris says Google couldn't wait for the committees that help craft web standards to get it done. "If you start by trying everything through the standards process, we would still be talking about it," he argues.
Whether or not AMP counts as "the web" is actually one of the points of contention — though as you'd expect, Besbris and Ubl believe strongly that it is, and they make a compelling case for it. Accelerated Mobile Pages, they contend, do not need to use Google's servers or serve Google ads; they can be published and distributed completely independently of Google.
Regardless of what Google's engineers think, outside of Mountain View, AMP is associated much more strongly with Google than it is with the web — even though it's been adopted by Bing, Twitter, Baidu, and others. Part of the problem is that AMP was Google's reaction to Facebook and Apple, so it fell into the easy thought bucket of "proprietary article formats." But most of it is that Google is huge and has pushed AMP in a big way with its biggest product: search. Publishers that support AMP show up in Google's top stories carousel, which means a flood of traffic. It's a huge incentive to support AMP.
And so, finally, we are ready to talk about today's blog post by Ubl. You need all that backstory to understand the following, a seemingly simple sentence that explains what Google is doing:
Based on what we learned from AMP, we now feel ready to take the next step and work to support more fast-loading content not based on AMP technology in areas of Google Search designed for this like the Top Stories carousel.
What Google is proposing is not to turn the entire web into AMP, but rather to take some of the ideas behind the clever hacks that made AMP work, clean them up, and then make them a universal standard that has nothing to do with Google. That way, nearly any webpage could be distributed as easily and loaded as quickly as ones that are supported by AMP.
Google is not blind: it knows that other companies aren't likely to up and adopt AMP as a universal solution to fixing the web. Although Ubl will happily tout how many non-Googlers contribute to AMP code, at the end of the day, he works at Google and is the BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life) on the AMP project. The new standards — many of which are already in development — seem like they would be genuinely good for the web. But just as importantly, they're genuinely more likely to get adopted by competing companies if they're seen as fundamental new web technologies and not just a Google project.