Facebook Instant Articles - What's the Incentive?

Jul 22, 2014
I'm a skeptical person.

When Google started pushing out it's Accelerated Mobile Pages project, I thought to myself... why?

We've already made mobile versions of our sites, then we made adaptive versions, then completely fluid responsive versions. I'm not interested in remarking up my HTML so Google can do some voodoo to my site under the guise of making it load any faster than it already does.

Now Facebook is pushing out Instant Articles and even teamed up with Automatic to create an official Wordpress plugin for it. Again... why?

"Instant Articles load content in Facebook’s News Feed up to ten times faster than standard web articles, and are optimized for the mobile reading experience."
Facebook automatically marks up your content and converts it to this format that's optimized for mobile devices. You can hook up your RSS feed and it will auto-push your pages to your Facebook account. Then I guess you're encouraged to buy Facebook Ads to boost them.

The idea that this is about speed and sensibility for mobile users is absurd. Our mobile connections are becoming faster and faster and soon enough bandwidth won't even be a discussion.

Facebook is overriding the user experience you've designed, much like Google is doing, most likely to roll out an optimized and consistent experience, one that's designed to get users to click advertisements.

I can only assume that Facebook is going to give an organic boost to pages using their Instant Articles format to incentivize webmasters to use it. I'm betting your ads are stripped and you'll be displaying Facebook Ads of some sort and getting a profit share like Adsense.

That was my speculation. I've not looked into it enough yet. But I stand by my original assessment. Don't fix it if it's not broken. Why let Facebook redesign my website AND monetize my content. It's crazy from our side and genius on theirs, and there's no question that tons of people will flock to it.

The difference is that Facebook isn't a Web 2.0 style of site. This is clever manipulation. But at the same time, if this becomes the trend for each new social network that comes out, it makes it easy for amateurs to immediately roll out optimized designs of their blogs... at the cost of sharing money with the social network. But if they are providing the traffic and giving you extra visibility as a thanks, then it makes sense.

For anyone who's dug into this more, what's your assessment? Is it worth it for low level viral content? How are they dealing with your current advertisements? If they are actually removing your ads and replacing them with theirs, I can't imagine how they'll compete with highly optimized viral sites.