Resigning from the AMP advisory committee
Inspired by Terence Eden’s example, I applied for membership of the AMP advisory committee last year. To my surprise, my application was successful.
I’ve spent the time since then participating in good faith, but I can’t do that any longer. Here’s what I wrote in my resignation email:
As mentioned at the end of the last call, I’m stepping down from the AMP advisory committee.
I can’t in good faith continue to advise on the AMP project for the OpenJS Foundation when it has become clear to me that AMP remains a Google product, with only a subset of pieces that could even be considered open source.
If I were to remain on the advisory committee, my feelings of resentment about this situation would inevitably affect my behaviour. So it’s best for everyone if I step away now instead of descending into outright sabotage. It’s not you, it’s me.
I’d like to thank the OpenJS Foundation for allowing me to participate. It’s been an honour to watch Tobie and Jory in action.
I wish everyone well and I hope that the advisory committee can successfully guide the AMP project towards a happy place where it can live out its final days in peace.
I don’t have a replacement candidate to nominate but I’ll ask around amongst other independent sceptical folks to see if there’s any interest.
All the best,
I wrote about the fundamental problem with Google AMP when I joined the advisory committee:
This is an interesting time for AMP …whatever AMP is.
See, that’s been a problem with Google AMP from the start. There are multiple defintions of what AMP is.
There’s the collection of web components. If that were all AMP is, it would be a very straightforward project, similar to other collections of web components (like Polymer). But then there’s the concept of validation. The validation comes from a set of rules, defined by Google. And there’s the AMP cache, or more accurately, Google hosting.
Only one piece of that trinity—the collection of web components—is eligible for the label of being open source, and even that’s a stretch considering that most of the contributions come from full-time Google employees. The other two parts are firmly under Google’s control.
I was hoping it was a marketing problem. We spent a lot of time on the advisory committee trying to figure out ways of making it clearer what AMP actually is. But it was a losing battle. The phrase “the AMP project” is used to cover up the deeply interwingled nature of its constituent parts. Bits of it are open source, but most of it is proprietary. The OpenJS Foundation doesn’t seem like a good home for a mostly-proprietary project.
Whenever a representative from Google showed up at an advisory committee meeting, it was clear that they viewed AMP as a Google product. I never got the impression that they planned to hand over control of the project to the OpenJS Foundation. Instead, they wanted to hear what people thought of their project. I’m not comfortable doing that kind of unpaid labour for a large profitable organisation.
Even worse, Google representatives reminded us that AMP was being used as a foundational technology for other Google products: stories, email, ads, and even some weird payment thing in native Android apps. That’s extremely worrying.
While I was serving on the AMP advisory committee, a coalition of attorneys general filed a suit against Google for anti-competitive conduct:
Google designed AMP so that users loading AMP pages would make direct communication with Google servers, rather than publishers’ servers. This enabled Google’s access to publishers’ inside and non-public user data.
We were immediately told that we could not discuss an ongoing court case in the AMP advisory committee. That’s fair enough. But will it go both ways? Or will lawyers acting on Google’s behalf be allowed to point to the AMP advisory committee and say, “But AMP is an open source project! Look, it even resides under the banner of the OpenJS Foundation.”
If there’s even a chance of the AMP advisory committee being used as a Potempkin village, I want no part of it.
But even as I’m noping out of any involvement with Google AMP, my parting words have to be about how impressed I am with the OpenJS Foundation. Jory and Tobie have been nothing less than magnificent in their diplomacy, cat-herding, schedule-wrangling, timekeeping, and other organisational superpowers that I’m crap at.
I sincerely hope that Google isn’t taking advantage of the OpenJS Foundation’s kind-hearted trust.