Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP is a Google backed Open Source initiative to standardize display of web pages on a smartphone or mobile screen. Screen or display real estate is at a premium on mobile phones. There is just about five inch of screen to pack in text, pictures, videos, titles, etc. Google is committed to provide the best viewer experience for its search engine users. And by the looks of it, AMP is the way forward for publishers and bloggers.
AMP Official website and announcements
The official website for AMP is the first place to start for details. It is almost the single reference point to begin with AMP.
But for the beginner point of view, this is the best way to start understanding about AMP.
This link is from the official Google Blog. Ironically the announcement is of Oct 2015 and as of Jan 2017, Google Blogging Platform still does not support AMP. WordPress however is fully AMP compliant.
What is the problem with mobile phones display
Mobile Phone screens have very less space. And most of the PC users now use the smartphone to do basic internet related things like browsing, emailing, maps, etc. As soon as someone searches Google, the search results are the direct interface between Google and its user. Search results are well within the control of Google. But the websites are not. Also Google has no control over how the websites are displayed on the limited size smart phone screen.
On the smartphone display, the website has its content, pictures and videos and advertisements. These should have some standard display pattern so as to have a uniform user experience. AMP is an attempt to standardize things. All AMP pages will be served from the Google AMP Cache. Google AMP Cache will behave similar to any content delivery network (CDN). There will a delay till Google caches all your AMP compliant pages.
Another interesting explanation of AMP is given in the link below.
Self Hosted Website v/s Social Media Platform
Once we understand the concept of AMP, we straight come to the question of the utility of a self hosted blog or website. There is no doubt that a self hosted blog provides amazing flexibility as far as design is concerned. Security is also top notch. A self hosted website with a dedicated server is the ultimate blogging machine. Google rankings are bound to be higher with a self hosted blog.
But a self hosted blog also means lots of maintenance. A blogger managing a self hosted blog means that he/she is a webmaster, admin, author, editor and publicist, all rolled in one. Anytime a new tech is introduced, we are back to the drawing boards. HTML 5, Google authorship, Mobile friendly compliance, panda algorithm and so on. Keeping a tab on new tech and making design changes at irregular intervals becomes a pain.
On the other hand, a platform like WordPress by Automattic or Blogger by Google takes care of techs. This means that bloggers can now focus on content and creativity. If your blog is hosted on wordpress.com, AMP compliance is automatic.
Bloggers have recently moved to social media platforms to have an instant reach to audience. Facebook, Tumbler, YouTube, Instagram, all are blogging platforms. Scores of bloggers in fact find no need to have a self hosted blog. The audience reach of these platforms is much higher and simpler. AMP compliance and other such tech needs which might come up in the future are automatically taken care of.
A few examples of AMP
So AMP is a method to display web pages on a mobile phone screen in a particular format. Here are some examples.
First we shall see a side by side comparison of AMP and non AMP page.
The screen shot on the left is AMP display. The position of each element is fixed. The layout does look good and space is optimized.
Google also favors the AMP compliant pages and websites by displaying them in search results in a preferential manner.
AMP pages are denoted by a white lightening bolt in a grey circle. I have also seen a noticeable jump in ranking of my articles after AMP compliance.
Though Google is still experimenting with AMP and search results, here is something interesting. AMP pages might show your featured image next to the snippets. Another eye catching option.