Facebook Instant Articles is a new feature built into the Facebook mobile app. It allows users to view articles from third party sources at blazingly fast speeds. But how can that be? What makes Facebook Instant Articles faster?
With the launch of Instant Articles, Facebook claimed that Instant Articles load 10 times as fast as mobile web content, thereby creating a better user experience.
The Wall Street Journal reported that, according to tests done by Catchpoint Systems, Facebook’s claim held true: the average load time for Instant Articles was between 0 and 300 milliseconds, compared with 3.66 seconds for similar articles on news publishers’ websites.
So how does it work? What makes Facebook Instant Articles so fast?
Traditionally when you clicked an article posted to Facebook (from inside the Facebook app), you would be taken to the publisher’s website. This would require opening a mobile browser and then bringing down and rendering all of the content necessary to load the publisher’s site, this includes:
- The site’s CSS and styling
- Any images for the site’s user interface
- The article content
- The article’s images
Facebook Instant Articles eliminates the need to download and render numbers 1 through 3 in the above list. What happens is, Facebook Instant Articles retrieves the article content and article images using what is very similar to a traditional RSS feed. It then renders the article content within the Facebook app.
The article content and images are really all that is needed for reading the article but the traditional method requires that tons of other user interface data come down with it.
Less to Download
So Facebook Instant Articles needs to download significantly fewer assets – and the assets that it does need to download (article content and images), are some of the smallest of the full set needed to render the article in a browser.
Less to Render
Since the article is being displayed in Facebook app, you don’t need to render complicated web layouts, navigation, etc in order to view it. The Facebook app can just render the article content and images within the Instant Articles reader and you can start reading.
Facebook Instant Articles preloads articles. Instead of waiting until you’ve clicked a link, the Facebook app will preload the start of each article before you’ve even reached it in your news feed. This way, the article can be shown almost “instantly” after you’ve clicked the link (and hence the name “Instant Articles”).
The downside that publishers are concerned about is that the user is never actually taken to the publisher’s site. The main reason why publishers want this is for advertising. Facebook has addressed this concern by allowing publishers to continue to serve their own ads within their Facebook Instant Articles. And you guessed it, AdPlugg integrates with Instant Articles! Check out our post about Facebook Instant Article Ads to learn more.
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