Five months after introducing its fast-loading instant articles into the News Feed, Facebook is now rolling out the format to all iPhone users, the company said today. Speaking at The Wall Street Journal's WSJD Conference in Laguna Beach, California, Facebook's Chris Cox said thousands of articles a day will now be published as instant articles. Facebook will also test the format in a public beta for Android users that launches today, said Cox, Facebook's chief product officer. Instant articles for Android will become widely available later this year.
Facebook is also adding new partners to the instant article program, including Vox Media (parent of The Verge), Slate, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Mail. They join the company's original nine partners, which include The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and The Atlantic. Publishers' interest reflects the enormous percentage of traffic that Facebook drives to their properties — and their fears over being left out if the faster-loading stories soon crowd out the regular old URLs that have been their lifeblood for the past several years.
Publishers are scrambling to support the new format
Facebook says readers are more likely to share instant articles, and that they load 10 times faster than normal links. Articles that are shared more often typically rank higher in the News Feed, which helps explain why publishers are scrambling to rewrite their content management systems to support the format. Meanwhile, rival quick-loading formats have been introduced by Apple, through Apple News, and Google, with Amplified Mobile Pages.
But it's Facebook that dominates news reading these days, and the breadth of publishers that have agreed to support the new format is telling. Here they are: Billboard, Billy Penn, The Blaze, Bleacher Report, Breitbart, Brit + Co, Business Insider, Bustle, CBS News, CBS Sports, CNET, Complex, Country Living, Cracked, Daily Dot, E! News, Elite Daily, Entertainment Weekly, Gannett, Good Housekeeping, Fox Sports, Harper's Bazaar, Hollywood Life, Hollywood Reporter, IJ Review, LittleThings, Mashable, Mental Floss, mindbodygreen, MLB, MoviePilot, NBA, NY Post, The Onion, Opposing Views, People, Pop Sugar, Rare, Refinery 29, Rolling Stone, Seventeen, TIME, Uproxx, US Magazine, USA Today, Variety, The Verge (hey that's us), and The Weather Channel.
Instant articles are denoted in the feed by a lightning bolt next to them. You'll see them if you follow any of the publishers above, or if a friend shares them. While they load faster than normal articles in part by stripping out advertising and tracking code that runs on many web pages, they also can include various custom visual elements, including 3D maps and photos that can be browsed by tilting your phone.
Correction, 1:30 p.m.: Clarified that while instant articles for Android will become widely available later this year, the public beta will launch today.
Verge Video: This is what Instant Articles are