Google is often criticized for its business practices but most of the technology it develops are, more often than not, relatively accepted. Except, perhaps, for AMP. Short for Accelerated Mobile Pages, Google’s mobile-centric open standard for the web has, not so ironically, split the web. But while some platform creators aren’t exactly taking sides, it seems that Apple sneaked in a feature in iOS 11 that at least helps make AMP less intrusive. And that’s by simply stripping out AMP markers from URLs when sharing or copying links from the Safari mobile browser.
We’ll leave out the debate on whether AMP is really beneficial for the Web as a whole or if it really just benefits Google. There is, however, one practical side effect of AMP, even if you pledge fealty to it. It messes up URLs and there is no standard way to form AMPed links. This is especially problematic when sharing AMP links. The person you share them with will naturally open the AMP version of the page, even if they’re doing so from a desktop computer.
That is what makes Apple’s almost secret feature both impressive and a bit curious. When you share or even just copy an AMP link from Safari in iOS 11, what the recipient will get is a canonical, “plain” link that leads to the regular version of the web page. It is remarkable that Apple is able to do this in real time, considering there is no standard way to format or sanitize AMP URLs yet.
At first glance, it almost seems that Apple is subtly revolting against Google’s AMP thrust, but apparently isn’t the case. Malte Ubl, Google’s AMP tech lead, reveals that he himself requested such a feature and that he is pushing other web browsers to do the same. He also admits that it is a workaround rather than a proper fix for the AMP situation but, pending a more general and standard solution, he’ll take band aid fixes for now.