Facebook is rolled out Instant Articles in its iOS app at 10 a.m. ET today. While there are some major user experience and user interface differences in these stories including auto-playing video and parallax images, the biggest change is the instant load time. According to Facebook Product Designer Mike Matas, a normal story takes around 8 seconds to load inside of the Facebook’s iOS WebView, while an Instant Article is, well, instant. Some of the news partners are treading lightly in these uncharted waters, calling it an “experiment” (the word chosen by The Times) and a “test” (The Guardian). The opportunity to put content right in front of users on mobile cannot be understated (i.e. fish where the fish are).
Of course Facebook is also hoping to create new kinds of native ad inventory with Instant Articles. Joshua Benton, the director of Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab commented, “It’s worth noting this moment as an instant (ha) when publishers realized how much power has been pulled out from under them.”
Some food for thought…Part of me wonders if Instant Articles were inevitable or could have been avoided if more publishers had fully embraced App Links/deep linking. Remember that with App Links, users jump directly into a publisher’s app rather than reading the story inside of Facebook’s WebView.