iPhone users getting their news through the Facebook mobile app will start to see more lightning bolt icons alongside their reading options — the icon signifies “instant articles,” Facebook’s push to boost loading time for articles on mobile by allowing select publishing partners to post articles using a highly optimized format that will make them load as much as ten times faster than traditional outbound links.
The articles have been slowly trickling into users’ feeds over the past five months, but the announcement of an official launch has garnered much attention from media publishers, both positive and negative.
Facebook’s iPhone and Android app developers have achieved the faster loading times by hosting the articles on Facebook’s own servers and adhering to a strict (though visually appealing) framework for content. Supported elements include some compelling features like tilt-to-zoom and auto play HD videos.
Nevertheless, not all responses have been positive, as the instant articles could signify a shift away from the traditional publishing model the likes of BuzzFeed and National Geographic depend on to generate ad revenue — making them dependent on a third party which could theoretically alter the terms down the road.
That hasn’t kept publishers from signing up though, with content producers from Rolling Stone to The Verge to CBS News signing up — and sending NYC mobile app developers scrambling to update content management systems to support the instant article standards. The Verge reports that Huffington Post and The Daily Mail have joined the club, creating valid fears of being “left in the dust” for any publisher relying on less-than-instant article distribution within the Facebook mobile app ecosystem.
Android app developers and users: keep an eye out for that lightning bolt icon in your feed over the next few months. The company has also announced a beta rollout of instant articles for Android, projecting cross-device adoption within the next year. Since instant articles statistically get more shares, and thus balloon quickly to the top of feeds, it shouldn’t take long to spot them.Tags: ad monetization, android app development, facebook, facebook instant articles, instant articles, iPhone app development, media sharing, monetization, social sharing apps