The Pros and Cons of AMP

As I progress towards the second anniversary of this blog, I’m learning new things about blogging all the time, like AMP, which I had never really paid much attention to before. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, and it is a project launched by Google in 2015. AMP uses simplified HTML (hypertext markup language, the “code” of your webpage) and streamlined CSS (cascading style sheet) rules to make Google search results display more quickly on mobile devices.

I discovered yesterday that, many times when I use Google on my iPhone to search for and pull up one of my blogposts, it is now formatted differently than before. It would appear that Google is now delivering the AMP version instead. And to be honest, I’m not quite sure whether or not I like this.

Here’s a side-by-side, before-and-after comparison. On the left is what my blogposts used to look like on my cellphone (it’s using exactly the same fonts and design as if you were reading them on a desktop machine). But now, most of my Google search results on mobile come up looking like the image on the right (the AMP format).

Notice that the web address of the image on the left (my regular blogpost style) says “ryanschultz.com”, while the web address of the image on the right (the AMP version) says “google.com”. Google is serving a cached version of my content.

Now, the good news is that these AMP blogposts are supposed to load faster for mobile users, but the bad news is that the AMP display strips out several user navigation details I had deliberately put in, such as the the “sandwich” menu in the upper right hand corner of the picture on the left, which led people to my blog’s search box and to other areas of my site. The AMP version also strips out the three related blogposts links that appear at the bottom of each of my blogpost pages. In other words, AMP is removing many of the ways that users could navigate within my blog, instead forcing them back out into Google. Google is basically using AMP to drive more traffic back to itself, rather than keeping people clicking around within my blog, and exploring. I hate that.

According to the Wikipedia article on AMP, many developers have criticized aspects of the service:

AMP has been widely criticized by many in the tech industry for being an attempt by Google to exert its dominance on the Web by dictating how websites are built and monetized, and that “AMP is Google’s attempt to lock publishers into its ecosystem”. AMP has also been linked to Google’s attempt to deprecate URLs so that users will not be able to immediately see whether they are viewing a webpage on the open Web or an AMP page that is hosted on Google’s servers.

Now, there’s nothing stopping the user of the AMP page to click on the chain link icon found in the upper right hand corner (it’s right next to “ryanschultz.com”, below “google.com” in the image to the rght) and use that link to see the page as I really want them to see it. But really, who is going to be bothered to take that extra step? Most people just take the info they need and run.

So now I have a difficult decision: turn off AMP completely on my blog and give everybody the same design experience, or leave AMP on and give up some more control to Google (which, I might add, drives a significant amount of traffic to my blog).

So, what do you think? Does it matter to you which version of the blogpost you see when you search Google? I’m willing to bet most people didn’t even know about AMP and could care less, as long as they find what they are looking for. So (for now), I am leaving AMP turned on.

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A First Look at Rec Room on iOS

VBunny Go is a VR game vlogger and Twitch livestreamer who was one of the beta testers of the iOS version of the social VR platform Rec Room, and she has posted a video of her experience to YouTube (I can’t embed it in this blogpost, but I can link to it).

VBunny Go is quite an entertaining and enthusiastic commentator, as she puts Rec Room through its paces (including playing several levels of a dungeon quest as part of a team). She finds that most of Rec Room’s functionality is still present, despite playing the game on an iPhone.

I need to get a setup like hers, so I can start doing my own in-world videos! She’s a good example of someone who is slowly building a YouTube audience with her videos of her VR gaming adventures.

Another enthusiastic early tester posted on the Rec Room subReddit:

As a VR only player, I’ve been excited to be able to try the mobile version and see what everyone is ready to complain about. And since today I was invited, I hurriedly downloaded it to finally witness the horror of mobile gaming. And guess what? It’s good. The game runs beautifully and looks absolutely gorgeous. The UI and UX is intuitive and snappy. The controls just make sense. I was literally jealous of the mobile menus compared to the VR version. It’s a smooth, polished ride with all of the content at the ready. It’s GOOD. And you all are going to love it.

This marks a significant shift in the social VR/virtual world market: support for mobile devices. Linden Lab is also working on an official mobile client for Second Life (no word on when that will be released), and of course there have been other mobile SL clients such as Lumiya for Android devices. There’s also a beta Android client for High Fidelity.

Zepeto: A Brief Introduction

I have Strawberry Singh to blame for this one! She wrote up a blogpost and posted a YouTube video about an avatar-based mobile social networking app called Zepeto:

Now, Zepeto reminds me a lot of another mobile app I had covered before on this blog, called Avakin Life, only it doesn’t seem to have as many features (for example, you can’t move your avatar around inside an environment). It takes a real-life self-portrait using your cellphone’s camera to create your default avatar, which you can then modify as you wish. Here’s what I came up with after only a few minutes of fiddling:

And here’s a couple of selfie poses:

Work that camera, gurl!!! Cute, but overall I found there’s not really a lot to do in Zepeto. Basically, you pose for photos alone or with your friends, and you chat… and that’s about it! If you find this sort of thing interesting, then you might want to check out Avakin Life first, since it lets you do a bit more.

Could We Finally Be Getting Official Mobile Clients (iOS and Android) for Second Life?

apple-and-android.pngSecond Life.png

Virtual worlds like IMVU and Avakin Life, which are highly popular with tweens and teens, have one strong advantage over Second Life; they can be played on mobile devices (tablets and smartphones), which are now ubiquitous technology in modern-day society. Although Linden Lab has made a few half-hearted forays into mobile clients for SL in the past, these projects never went very far before they were shut down. Second Life is still, after all these years, primarily a virtual world played on a computer desktop (Windows, Mac, and Linux), which limits its potential audience somewhat.

Wagner James Au of the long-running Second Life blog New World Notes was the first to notice that Linden Lab is hiring a senior mobile engineer for Second Life. According to the position description:

Linden Lab is looking for an innovative mobile app engineer to deliver a compelling, responsive mobile interface into Second Life. If you’re passionate about the latest cross platform mobile technologies and would be psyched to wake up every morning knowing that your efforts will enhance the largest, most successful virtual world on the Internet then we want to hear from you!

Responsibilities

  • Expand and enhance access to Second Life – the most successful user-created Virtual World ever with tens of thousands of concurrent users.
  • Collaborate with other engineers in an iterative, agile development environment with a passionate commitment to improving the Second Life experience.
  • Participate in design and code reviews and discussions both within the web team and with other parts of Second Life development.

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities

To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  • Results-oriented attitude and dedication to the user experience.
  • Demonstrated proficiency working in a geographically distributed team.
  • Experience developing consumer-oriented mobile applications for Android and IOS.
  • Experience with distributed version control (git or mercurial).
  • Experience with automated testing.
  • Experience with AWS or other cloud-based deployment models, especially streaming cloud-based rendering.
  • Demonstrated ability to accurately scope projects and negotiate deadlines within a flexible team structure.
  • Deep familiarity with and enthusiasm for Second Life is a HUGE plus.

It would appear that they are interested in building Second Life mobile apps for both Apple (iOS) and Android devices, which is good news!

Wagner adds:

Also notable: Based on this job requirement, it looks like the company is planning to create a cloud-streaming version of SL for mobile:

Experience with AWS [i.e. Amazon Web Services] or other cloud-based deployment models, especially streaming cloud-based rendering.

Back in 2014, Linden Lab partnered with the now-defunct OnLive to do just that, so it’s good to know they’re going in that direction again.

[The] job is remote and “deep familiarity with and enthusiasm for Second Life is a HUGE plus”, so this could be a dream gig for SL’s many talented community developers. My recommendation, of course, is to hire Alina Lyvette, whose Lumiya viewer for Android has already sold well over 100,000 copies.

Lumiya.png
Lumiya client on the Google Play Apps Store

Along with High Fidelity’s recent announcement of an alpha version of an Android client for the platform, it looks like we’re going to see some interesting times ahead!