Visiting websites from a  mobile device can be a maddening experience its starts with the incredibly slow loading speeds; the oddly placed popup ads that are difficult to close; and the UX interaction that ignore the popularity of touch based devices. The frustration level draws parallels to the general condition of smart phones before the iPhone revolution, where we still thought our smart phones were just tiny PCs, trying to force our square pegged PC experience into into a circular pegged Mobile world. Just wrong headed.

The pure irony (and lunacy) around this is that most of the celebrated sites that are calling this issue out do so while using ad platforms that further slow and entangle our mobile experiences. The question at this point is what can we do about this?

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Google has started a developing a framework for developing a HTML based solution to speeding up the mobile web called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). The main causal issue that AMP appears to be addressing is the speed of loading and consuming JavaScript, or more specifically those JavaScript libraries:

JavaScript is the core building block for advanced web apps, but for static content it may not always be required: for a headline, some text and an image you do not need JS. Looking further into the content being created on the web nowadays, there are, however, things like lightboxes, various embeds, polls, quizzes and other interactive features that cannot easily be implemented without JavaScript…So, AMP HTML comes with strong limitations on JS.

I think this project is a good start but its basic premise is that some of the most beloved frameworks for creating the modern web are wholly inappropriate for the fastest growing group of devices. This should be a concern for all web developers, everywhere.

Ad Blockers

The iOS response seems a little extreme but highly effective, open the Safari browser to plugins that effectively block all ads, and thus remove most offending JavaScript libraries from even running. This method will probably create a cat and mouse game between ad blockers and ad frameworks, which in turn trades bad mobile experiences for inconsistent ones. There is an additional moral quandary that comes with broadly blocking ads, the websites you enjoy and love lose the ability to monetize the content that we all find so valuable.

What to do?

The idea that blocking ads is the solution is probably a little naïve, we have entire industries that have built their business model on page/ad views, and the subsequent fall out would mean an end to those websites that provide true value to our online experience. Similarly creating a new type of HTML that creates an embargo against one of the fundamental building blocks of the web seems overly aggressive.

I would personally prefer to see a solution that is able to account for the device it is displayed on, much like how modern web design is able to detect the size and type of screen before rendering. We need similar intuitive options when deciding if a library is appropriate for a mobile device.

As mobile devices get more powerful and broadband  speeds become ubiquitous, this whole discussion may simply become moot, just like it is on our PCs.

Full disclosure, I have a couple of modest ads on this site powered by Google Adsense, as a blogger and web developer I have more tools at my disposal to test the efficacy of the mobile experience and have done so on iOS and Windows phone devices (do not currently own Android). Feel free to let me know if you have issues with any part of this site on any device.

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