Complaint against Google: AMP and online advertising in the crosshairs

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  • Complaint reveals Google’s disastrous practices with its AMP format and how it used it to kill online advertising competition.

    Complaint reveals Google's disastrous practices with its AMP format and how it used it to kill online advertising competition.

    Definitely, the AMP format is the longest soap opera when we look at the abusive practices of Google. A complaint by several American states targets Google’s practices with the AMP format. He believes that this format has allowed Google to discriminate against non-AMP pages, but above all to neutralize advertising competition by blocking what are called header bidding.

    The AMP format

    I was one of the early supporters of the AMP format, but got disillusioned pretty quickly. The premises were elegant and noble, but Google, as with its usual, messed it all up. AMP is a format for creating a light version of pages (if you add /amp at the end of the URL for this article, you will see its AMP version).

    The postulate was as follows. Google at the time considered websites to be at varying speeds. Those who could afford to optimize for mobile had a competitive advantage, as the majority of visitors used their phones. And the small sites, that is to say the proles like us, were constantly lagging behind. AMP was therefore socialism in the mobile adaptation.

    Google, hand on heart, created a format that anyone can easily and free to implement on their site (via plugins in particular) and presto, each site had an ultra-light version. Basically, AMP did not contain any code, no JavaScript or anything else. Only text and images.

    But the problems started right away.

    Discrimination against non-AMP and down with advertising competition

    The complaint has two parts. The first is that Google deliberately slowed down non-AMP pages to give AMP versions an artificial advantage. And since page load speed is a SEO factor, we let you imagine the genocide. The big problem with AMP is that you no longer have control over your content. When Google detected an AMP page on your site, it would copy it to its own servers. And it was the latter that were displayed to visitors. In theory, there is no change between the version on your site and the version on Google’s server. But theory and Google, that’s 8!

    This means that Google could whatever it wanted on this page. For example, if your site was down, then AMP pages would continue to display normally. This can be an advantage, but it does imply that you have donated all of your content to Google. So, a first discrimination between those who use the gospel of the web according to Google and the others.

    Advertising competition

    In current advertising, what is called Header bidding is used. Roughly speaking, this allows a publisher to offer its advertising space on several advertising exchanges at the same time. As he has several offers, then he can play on the price and have a higher income. Except that you have to integrate JavaScript into the header of your web page (hence the header bidding name) for it to work. And in its early days, AMP disabled JavaScript…

    This meant that Google deliberately prevented ad exchanges from competing for publisher placements. And obviously, since Google’s only servers are available, not only does it get all the ads, but more importantly, the publisher makes less money.

    The toxicity of the AMP format and Google’s relationship with publishers is increasingly crystallizing into hot iron. Publishers are exhausting themselves creating content every day and they are making less and less money, which forces them to create more content to survive on the minimum. We also have the change to go from the second to the first auction which will further lower prices. And this is not the first such complaint. Because in December 2020, Google and Facebook were accused of colluding to destroy these famous header bidding to have a monopoly on online advertising.

    Symbolic complaints

    Even if complaints pile up on federal court tables against the sickening practices of GAFAMs, it will not work in the long run. These complaints also have a political flavor in the sense that the American authorities understand that these monsters that they have financed and created from scratch have escaped their control. GAFAMs are now more powerful than most countries and they can do whatever they want.

    America is used to creating this type of big monster out of its predatory mentality, but on a regular basis it “slices up the big ones” to put everyone in their place. But this time, the legal knife is far too small to hurt GAFAMs grease, which is much thicker than a rhino shell.

    The bottom line is that online advertising prices will continue to fall, publishers will be in more of a hurry, and states will continue to file purely token complaints to make it look like they are doing something.

    As Mel Gibson prophesied in Lethal Weapon: “I’m fucked, you’re fucked, we’re all fucked.”

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