Facebook’s long rumoured news platform, Instant Articles, is launching today with content from The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Blid.
According to the Facebook, content served through Instant Articles will load 10 times faster than similar content on a standard web page. The company says that the same tech that allows photos and videos to load quickly on its mobile app powers Instant Articles. This means that articles will stored on Facebook’s servers; when a person clicks on an Instant Article, they’ll no longer be redirected to the publisher’s website.
Besides the speed of Instant Articles, Facebook is also touting the platform’s interactive features. Each article can contain high resolution photography, interactive maps and audio captions. As this is Facebook, it’s also possible to like and comment on an article, though in this case the company has taken it to the extreme; readers can comment and like all the individual parts of an article. Facebook says it’s working on additional interactive features that it will release in the coming months.
“Fundamentally, this is a tool that enables publishers to provide a better experience for their readers on Facebook” said Chris Cox, the company’s chief product officer, in a statement. “Instant Articles lets them deliver fast, interactive articles while maintaining control of their content and business models.”
As for what this means for publishers, it’s hard to tell. Instant Articles marks a significant departure from how news was distributed in the past, that much is sure. However, whether that’s a good or bad thing is still up in the air. What is clear is that Facebook has used its dominance as one largest websites in the world to create a situation where publishers will have little choice but to accept the platform. According to the Pew Research Centre, one-third of Americans get the majority of their news from Facebook, and that’s a number that’s likely going to continue to grow. According to its most recent earnings report, despite all odds Facebook continued to grow its user base at a healthy clip.
Facebook’s new news platform is currently only available on the company’s iOS app, though an Android update is forthcoming. The first wave of Instant Articles should already be live by the time this article is published. It’s possible to tell an Instant Article apart from its regular peers by the “video” covers that autoplay as you scroll down your Newsfeed.