Late yesterday Facebook launched Instant Articles, a new feature for Facebook's iPhone app that will allow select media partners including the New York Times, National Geographic and BuzzFeed to publish articles on Facebook itself. For users, the big advantage is that Instant Articles will load much quicker than an webpage and Instant Articles can also include interactive elements.
As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.
Along with a faster experience, Instant Articles introduces a suite of interactive features that allow publishers to bring their stories to life in new ways. Zoom in and explore high-resolution photos by tilting your phone. Watch auto-play videos come alive as you scroll through stories. Explore interactive maps, listen to audio captions, and even like and comment on individual parts of an article in-line.
The Verge has a great in-depth look at Instant Articles, including a terrific 4 minute introduction video which also features Facebook's Mike Matas.
Facebook is currently partnering with nine media organisations, but there's no doubt more will be added over time. The launch partners are: The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild.
If you want to read an Instant Article yourself, just open the Facebook app on your iPhone, go to the Facebook page of one of the media partners and scroll until you see an article with a gold bookmark in the top-right corner. I've had a look at a few and they certainly load faster than a typical article would load, and they also look great, particularly with some of the new interactive elements.