After debuting on iPhone in May, Facebook's instant articles are today rolling out to Android users, according to BuzzFeed News. The fast-loading articles let publishers host their stories directly with Facebook, which cuts down on waiting time for readers and results in bigger sharing numbers. And articles that get shared more frequently rank higher in News Feed, so there's obvious incentive for publishers to take part. There's basically no delay between tapping and reading, so the benefit on the user side is clear. Instant articles have been in beta on Android since October.
So far, over 350 publishers (yes, including The Verge and parent company Vox Media) have signed up. You'll know links are instant articles when there's a lightning bolt icon in the top right corner. The format lets publishers build a richer reading experience with things like audio captions and photo galleries, while stripping out a lot of the hidden advertising and analytics that can bog things down when you're pulling up a story on the web.
Publishers can let Facebook sell ads on their instant articles, in turn splitting revenue with the company, or sell the ads themselves and keep everything. The format gives Facebook even greater power over an industry that it's already seized control of. Google has said its own take on instant articles is in the works and coming next year. Apple has also sought to give consumers a richer news experience with the News app in iOS 9.