The AMP fiasco. What does it mean for WordPress, Google and Automattic interests?

In relation to the ongoing legal proceedings against Google about the damage that AMP technology has generated to a multitude of publishers and publishing companies, a derivative arises that could also involve Automattic, the company of Matt Mullenweg, co-creator of WordPress and top leader of the company that offers WordPress.com among other services related to WordPress.

Why is Google being sued for AMP technology?

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When Google launched the AMP technology, or accelerated mobile pages, 5 years ago it started to apply a selection criterion by which AMP pages were prioritized over those that did not use this technology, without taking into account the fair criteria of content relevance and SEO.

AMP technology also prioritized the loading speed of ads served from Google Ads technology over other ads from other servers.

This has caused many publishers to lose millions of $/€ over the last 5 years, and these, feeling negatively affected by the almost mandatory implementation of AMP technology, are now taking legal action against Google for this reason.

And not only that, but Google also claimed that AMP technology would improve page load times on mobile devices, when in fact this was false, as it was shown, and Google has now acknowledged that it was not, that many publishers delivered their pages faster than with AMP with their own technical solutions.

In short, Google took advantage of its monopoly position in the browser market to impose a technology, AMP, that severely penalized both page loading speed and publishers’ revenues.

What’s up with Automattic?

Matt Mullenweg

Automattic is the company that contributes most to the WordPress project, also because of their own interest, because all its products depend on the development of WordPress.

So much so that the company Automattic has full-time employees for the various projects of the WordPress community, practically dominating the discussions on almost any decision affecting the community.

Although all communication environments of the WordPress community are open and participatory, in the end, the reality is that who makes almost all decisions are Matt Mullenweg or someone from his company, like Josepha Haden, leader of the organizational division of Automattic’s open source projects, appointed by Mullenweg as executive director of the WordPress project, without voting or proposals or any consensus, it was totally a business decision.

This applies to virtually all working groups of the WordPress project, where you will always find one or more people, paid by Automattic, guiding, proposing, or directly deciding where WordPress is going in all areas.

I’m not going to go into the motivations of each person, not even those of the companies that contribute to WordPress, which I understand will be both philosophical and lucrative, I do not know if equally or not, but the reality is what it is about who decides the present and future of WordPress.

Why might Automattic be involved in these legal proceedings against Google?

automattic

As it turns out, Automattic has played an important role in the mass rollout of Google’s AMP technology.

As soon as AMP was born, in 2016, Automattic partnered with Google to promote AMP as an early adopter of the technology, first on WordPress.com, and then Automattic created the first versions of the AMP plugin for standalone WordPress sites.

It seems clear that Automattic has played an important role in promoting the adoption of AMP, opening the door for it in a major way to the WordPress ecosystem.

And, I don’t know what you think, but facilitating the adoption of such a technology, with the overwhelming push from Google and the facilities to offer it to more than 40% of all websites (those made with WordPress) seems to be an important bet by Automattic.

And of course, now, demonstrated that Google’s goal with AMP did not seem to be to make a faster and more accessible web, as it should be with the WordPress community, but rather other much more mundane interests, it turns out that Automattic could have been stained, and I do not know if in the future sued, by this bet they did.

If we add to this, that behind the push for AMP technology, it has been discovered that Google’s ultimate goal was to push the NERA project, an attempt by Google to control the entire advertising market in its favor, it turns out that at the end of it all, a summary of the facts would imply that Automattic has facilitated Google to massively introduce, through the WordPress project, a technology that was intended to make a web less free for purely monetary interests.

Of course, I’m not saying that Automattic and its contributors were aware of these dark interests, but in the end, the result is that they have contributed to them, and have implicated the entire WordPress project, by the grace of their perhaps excessive control of the decisions that are made in WordPress.

What about AMP now?

Well, if it is still not clear to you, you are late to uninstall AMP(you should have done it “yesterday”, do it now) from your WordPress website.

As a direct consequence of the lawsuits against Google for AMP’s shady interests, it is already showing that AMP pages have ceased to have dominance in the Top Stories of Google’s results, which proves 3 things:

  • That Google was clearly forcing the visibility of AMP pages over others.
  • That once the parameters causing this manipulation were removed, non-AMP pages should always have been higher in the search engine results.
  • That Google has lied – again – about their real interests, which are not to make a better web, but a more profitable web for them.

Now what about Automattic and the WordPress community?

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As far as the role of Automattic and the WordPress community is concerned, I think we should all learn a lot from this problem, especially when recently another initiative has emerged, already confirmed, this time sponsored and finally led by 3 employees of Google and 2 of Yoast (recently acquired by a hosting company), to create a new team in WordPress performance and web speed.

If we do not want the interests of the companies to take precedence over those of the WordPress project, it is better for us to be vigilant community members (everyone, you, me, everyone) with the initiatives that arise in the various working groups, always checking at least ….

  • Who does the proponent of the initiative work for?
  • Who primarily benefits from the initiative?
  • Is the initiative aligned with the philosophy and goals of the open source WordPress project?
  • Who and how will decisions about the initiative be made?

Also, it’s easier than you might think to distinguish a community project from one driven by commercial interests:

  • A project driven by commercial interests always focuses on an “urgent need” and aims to “speed up decision processes”.
  • A project driven by open source community interest will always focus on the goals of the project, its real need and on making it as open and collaborative as possible.

Believe it or not, when an initiative arises that is not aligned with the principles, goals, and philosophy of WordPress, or its process is not as open and collaborative as it should be, if enough community voices arise to stop, modify, or redirect the initiative towards the best possible good for the WordPress project, no company can ignore the WordPress community as a whole, if only to avoid generating negative sentiment towards the brand.

You’d be surprised at the power of the voice of the silent majority, when it stops being silent .

And you, what do you think about this whole move? Were you surprised by Google’s interests, did you still think it was the “Don’t be Evil” company? And about Automattic, do you think they knew what was behind it?

Do you think the WordPress governance project should be revived to democratize decisions? Let us know your thoughts.

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