Google Introduces Image and Bandwidth Optimizations to its AMP Service
Over the course of 2016, followers of the mobile web space no doubt have noticed that Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project consistently grew and matured. With sites like The Verge, Gizmodo, The Daily Dot, and Wired fully adopting the service and reporting improved viewership statistics and advertising performance, it is highly likely that AMP will continue to experience growth and be broadly adopted throughout the mobile web market.
Of some significance to this potential for future growth is a feature that AMP recently released to developers called AMP Lite. As Huibao Lin and Eyal Peled of Google note, around 63% of the bytes loaded in an average webpage are from images. Thus, AMP Lite focuses mainly on image optimization; something it is largely able to accomplish through integration with AMP Cache. AMP Cache is a smart caching service that allows strategic prioritization of back-end material that is geographically closer to the user accessing AMP content, thus resulting in lower latency and faster loading times. It also gives AMP more access to the content that has loaded, which has allowed Google to introduce image optimization in AMP Lite.
The image optimization protocols that Lite utilizes rely on four main steps: removing data which is invisible or hard to notice to the viewer, converting images to formats that are more mobile-friendly, adding the srcset tool to make images adaptable to the resolution of devices viewing it, and finally lowering the quality of the images when data efficiency is needed most.
As illustrated above, there is a somewhat visible difference in quality between the optimized and unoptimized images. However, when considering that the file size of the optimized version is nearly 10 times smaller than the original file, it is a very small price to pay for vastly decreased bandwidth usage. Aside from image optimizations and AMP’s smart caching, AMP Lite also integrates external font optimization which improves font loading time regardless of AMP Cache usage. Altogether, the developers of AMP found that these new additions have resulted in a 45% reduction of data usage for users browsing mobile sites.
Widespread adoption of AMP Lite will no doubt be a boon for mobile users with strict data and device constraints – particularly those in developing countries with mobile service infrastructure that is less than robust. Google is already beginning to roll out these improvements in Vietnam and Malaysia and will most likely expand into other countries soon after.
With Google clearly taking bandwidth-constrained user scenarios seriously, this space will likely see rapid improvements over the coming months and years. On the same day that these improvements to AMP were announced, Google Plus Project Manager John Nack announced that Google+ would integrate a new technology called RAISR (Rapid and Accurate Super-Resolution). Initially developed by three Google researchers, RAISR will bring intelligent, AI-based upscaling to all photos uploaded on Google Plus, resulting in a reported 75% decrease in bandwidth usage when accessing RAISR-optimized photos. Given that the image optimizations AMP Lite utilized resulted in a 40-50% bandwidth reduction, it is possible and maybe even likely that we will eventually see AMP Lite adopt a RAISR-influenced approach to image optimization in the future.
Whatever the future of AMP Lite is, the improvements it has already begun to provide consumers in Vietnam and Malaysia will hopefully make their digital lives a little easier and provide more usable experiences to anyone and everyone who has to deal with meager data plans and inconsistent wireless coverage.
Source: Google Developers Blog