facebook instant articles

Find Out How Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP HTML and Apple News Stack Up Against Each Other for Becoming THE Mobile News Standard Format

Who Are We? The Digital-Savvy Millennials! The First Generation Actually Younger Than The Internet itself. We Need Just One Thing; Fast Internet! We Keep Our Phone with Us Day and Night, Like a Soulmate.  According to Cisico There Will be 5.5 Billion Mobile Internet Users by 2020. Representing 70% of The Global Population, Everything Will Be Done on Mobile Devices in the Next Five Years.”

Really, if you ask any young person today he or she believes that within the upcoming 5 years most things will take on or via their mobile phones. After all, with Google Fiber, smarter electronic gadgets and 4G-internet abounding, who has the patience for turtle net? In the race to compete over smarter and faster articles, there’s a new service online which claims to be the Be-All and End-All of online articles with speedy deliveries, courtesy some of the technological giants of today namely Facebook, Google and Apple. Aren’t you curious to see what each has to offer? Then read on!


What’s the fuss over Facebook Instant Articles?

facebook logo

When Facebook started out in a Harvard dorm, who knew that today it would invade all our lives and take over the way we perceive friendship over the Internet? Cut to 2016, and we’re looking at a potentially massive innovation in the way articles and news is delivered on our mobile devices: and yes, we’re talking about Facebook Instant Articles.

How does the Instant Article scheme work? Well, Facebook as a platform serves as a repository of cached data, which in this case happens to be in the form of partner-articles. When websites that have partnered with Facebook upload their articles, Facebook allows users to access these articles at nearly 10x the speed of the same articles available outside the FB platform.

We’re somewhat excited about Facebook Instant Articles, and here’s why:

Benefits For Publishers:

  • Revenue Offers: Facebook’s offers for revenue sharing are quite exciting for publishers because they are offering them 100% revenue if a publisher sells the ad, and only taking a 30% cut if it’s on the FB platform. This might just lure more publishers into using the FB platform.facebook
  • Exclusive Content: Because the content published on Facebook by their partner publishers is controlled by the publishers, they have control over which ones get to be Instant Articles and which ones are only available on-site.
  • Visibility Guarantee: Facebook’s Edge Rank program makes it easier for Instant Articles to get featured more prominently, and this can be a huge bonus for publishers which other platforms do not often offer.
  • Acts as Native ad promotion service: Publishers can post their ads through Facebook, with a native ad facility which has always been a part of the Instant Article objective.

Benefits For Users:

  • Instant Articles are Beautiful: It’s true, and there’s no denying it. Instant Articles look beautiful, load fast, and give the user a completely immersive experience. This is a complete package of beauty and brains, and no less.
  • Facebook has an exclusive app known as Notify, which is a direct challenge to the Apple News. While Apple News is accessible only on Apple devices, Facebook Instant access should be available on both Android and iPhone devices.

Why should you be concerned over Google AMP?

Google isn’t just one of the many search platforms available today: it is THE search engine of choice for the majority of people. Before we begin, let’s give you the down-low on what the AMP stands for, which is “Accelerated Mobile Pages”. Google isn’t beating about the bush while proclaiming its purpose: Google AMP is definitely geared towards mobile devices.

google amp html

What’s the best part about Google AMP HTML? Definitely the fact that it’s open source code, which means there are no paid license, no restricted access or use, and definitely no limitations in terms of platform. While Facebook Instant Access will work only as long as you’re within the Facebook ecosystem, Google goes above and beyond by allowing everyone with a website to develop faster mobile web pages and offer content to Google in an AMP HTML valid version. We’re technically looking at a new age of fast mobile articles, thanks to Google’s technology consisting out of AMP HTML, a restricted version of HTML, the AMP JS library with AMP optimized scripts and the AMP CDN which is a proxy-based content delivery network for delivering all validated AMP pages.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the things which Google AMP aims to resolve:

  • Significantly Shorter Load Times: While this may appear to be fictitious, it is true that nearly 60% respondents in a survey said they’d leave a website if it takes more than 2 seconds to load. Higher bounce rates translate to less business for websites, which is why significantly shorter loading times are a great boon both for publishers and users. With the strong adoption of mobile internet and the rise of IOT, the need for faster internet and better structured web interfaces become more and more evident.
  • Better Accessible Internet: While data plans can be quite expensive in some regions, Google AMP allows users to have access to simplified versions of websites. This means that the data transmission and the charges are significantly reduced.

what is google amp html

  • Awesome Open Source Coding: Google AMP allows publishers and developers to
    build their own AMP templates and website on the basis of source codes provided – for free – by Google and the rest of the open source community on Github.
  • Better Ad Behavior: Ads can often significantly affect, even break, the browsing experience for mobile users. This is a significant factor especially for those that do not use responsive HTML layouts. While AMP strips it for mobile users, it also provides webmasters a high-performing platform for their mobile ads they craved so long.
  • Streamlined Websites: AMP HTML allows users to get a streamlined clean experience of the internet, and considering the number of smartphone users accessing news and other materials on their phones, this is especially beneficial in this day and age.
  • Strong Technology Partner Network: To ensure AMP adoption among developers and technology companies will be high, Google found some great other leading technology players in the industry to join forces.  AMP early adopters are Adobe Analytics / Comscore, Chartbeat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Parse.ly, Nussel and of course WordPress with an install base of 25% of all websites globally running on their software. With approximately 50.000 WordPress sites added each day to the Internet, WordPress enables this Google led project team a pathway to success, because as with each attempt to be the standard, it stands or falls with adoption.
  • Potential source of money: While Google has no tie-ups with publishers and asks for no significant cuts from profits, it does enable them to put out Google ads which are specially optimized for this mobile platform. This is a complete win-win and it comes at no extra costs for publishers!

Time to check out the Apple News service

apple news building

It’s no surprise that the Apple News Service is completely different from the Facebook and Google distribution services for mobile new articles. As the name suggests, it is a collection of articles and information from a wide number of websites and online sources. There’s a catch here: Apple News is curated, depending on the kind of websites you visit and your search history, this to give you an amazing Apple experience while browsing the internet in search for the content you specifically intended to consume.

Now how does Apple News work? When you use your Apple device, Apple News collects information and anticipates what kind of things you might want. Then it begins to list all of these in the form of a single app, in one place, combining an immersive experience in terms of graphic-intensive UI and the best news sources, etc.

What are the key features and benefits of using Apple News? These include but are not restricted to:

  • apple news for iphone and ipadIn terms of curated news service, Apple News is a good offering because it adapts to users , their intend,  their needs and requirements. While there’s a slight learning curve, whichis not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Apple News works on the basis of RSS news feeds and publisher updates, which allows it to offer personalized content to iOS users and greater control of what is highlighted.
  • Great browsing experience, in terms of design elements, Apple News is really good: editorial layouts and text remains as per publisher guidelines, offering a better experience overall.
  • Apple News offers fast mobile browsing on iPhones and iPads without affecting the overall look and feel of the websites that it has on show.
  • Gallery support, animation support, interactive designs are implemented within the app which pre-caches data to give smoother experiences for iOS users: something that is definitely a plus for the Apple News service.

The Technological Advances behind These Services

News articles, especially those with long texts and significant amounts of images (like this blog post), generally take more than two to four seconds to load completely. It ends up creating a distinctly uncomfortable experience of scrolling through, with pages refreshing and taking you to the beginning even after you may have scrolled down already.

While accelerated mobile web pages are fast becoming a part of everyday life, the technology behind them is quite interesting. Both Apple News and Facebook depend upon the partnerships it builds up with providers of news, offering them a common platform for access and distribution of data etc but owned and managed by Apple and Facebook. On the other hand, Google AMP offers an open source environment that does not fully rely on partnerships and complex revenue sharing models. In general though, most of these intiatiatives to speed up the mobile internet work on the interpolation of a specific framework, content aggregating and a sort of cloud caching function.

The aim, however, remains the same for all of these service providers, which is the promise of delivering a faster experience of the mobile internet and giving users what they need, instantaneously. The end result for content publishers and advertisers is that it will be likely the only route in their continious search for more online traffic and reach, by significantly improving user experience for the mobile user.

Accelerated Mobile Pages, for instance, a new type of HTML for building static mobile webpages that load faster. It consists of three different parts: AMP HTML, AMP JavaScript and AMP CDN. While the first component helps build a restricted, stripped down mobile HTML version of ordinary websites, the AMP Javascript library works to provide optimized JavaScript build based on Google’s performance best practices like minimizing resources, external requests and providing custom elements and tags that lead to faster website loading experiences. AMP CDN is optionally available to serve the static AMP HTML variations. When using Google’s AMP CDN you still will need to host your content at your current hosting provider where it will be crawled and stored on the AMP CDN before it is made available to Google’s infrastructure. These wide number of options and support by a huge open source community means that publishers will always have more options when choosing AMP HTML. Ultimately, what Google provides are a set of AMP HTML codes which can be implemented by just any web developer to make their websites render faster.

On the other hand, Facebook Instant Articles works by providing publishers a common platform to be heard out of. Within the Facebook platform most tools are focussed around users in need to consume news, videos, articles, editorials, and fast. Facebook allows the publication of Instant Articles through their already established CMS systems, which is one of its advantages. These articles are created solely from HTML5, which extends its range of possibilities in compare to others. Instant Articles stands out in enabling interactive content such as auto play videos, audio capture, 3d etc. How this works in a simple way? Facebook provides an simple editor for publishers, which allows them to modify and configure their content to match layouts but within Facebook’s brand experience guidelines, this for the content to be validated as Instant Articles-ready.

Apple News Services is a glorified app as well, because it works a bit like Google Now in accumulating suggested articles based on usage patterns, but also provides publishers a platform for content mash-ups. There’s one advantage that this app provides in relation to it’s competitors, which is that it has its set of editorial typographies which provides a very close experience to the full-scale web version. These articles are generally sourced from leading news channels and offered only on Apple iPads and iPhones, which makes it the most restricted platform for publication despite its smart capabilities and strong market penetration. Apple has an open API which allows publishers to integrate with their CMS systems, providing a rather smooth experience for getting your content on Apple News. To sum it up, Apple News app offers maybe the best personalized and good looking experience, works on the features of pulling RSS feed, smart filtering and caching for fast distribution.


So who is using what now? Where to put my money?

apple newsIt’s quite obvious that each of these different platforms cater to their specific target users in different ways, which is why it is interesting to see the kind of partnership lineups they’ve garnered all. As of September 2015, Apple News had over 50 publishers who had partnered up with it to provide users top newsfeed-like articles, all of that catered to their own requirements. The New York Times famously publishes 33 articles per day for Apple News platform, with other famous names coming under the banner such as Reuters, Vox, CNN, Washington Post, Mashable, Bloomberg, Conde Nest, Hearst, and Wenner Media, among many other digital content providers.

Facebook also has a Notify service that lets users instantly access newsfeed articles from sources, within the standalone app interface itself. This allows users to subscribe to these publishers, ensuring that they get their favorite news channels right within the app: and at 1/10th the speed of normal responsive web designs for PC platforms. Amongst publishers on Facebook’s interface are the New York Times, SLATE, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, the Daily News, Washington Post, MTV, Huffington Post, The Guardian, NBC, National Geographic, the Atlantic, Vox Media, Dodo, Business Insider and more.
When it comes to Google AMP and it’s partner eco-system, the open source factor offers a target group of millions of developers all keen to ensure their websites are optimized for search engine visibility. Clubbed together with a back-to-back partnership with WordPress brings the potential to make 25% of all websites globally AMP HTML compliant via a simple plugin or custom Wordpress AMP theme.

google loves wordpressSupport for Google AMP comes from all corners of the web, including technology and innovation service providers and news channels. To mention just a few names, supporters include LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Vox Media, Hearst, ChatBeat, FAZ.Net , La Stampa, Abril, Digital, AtlanticMedia, BBC, BuzzFeed, Conde Nast, FairFax Media, Les Echos, FT, Mashable, Time, News Corp, El Pais and many others….

What these New Age News Service Mediums mean for Native News Websites?

Before the advent of accelerated websites, the most recent revelation in the news website market was online publishing. Even today, such websites gain momentum from their indigenous platforms and the ability to include Social Media integration facilities. However, with the coming of the Apple News, Facebook Instant Article, and Google AMP HTML, much of that is expected to change. Users now have the option of choosing just one app for all their favorite news in one place, or a platform which loads their news up to 10 times faster than normal. Unsurprisingly, most media houses and statistical analysts are expecting to see an increasing consolidation trend towards these news sources.

However, while many are hailing this move towards Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP or Apple News as a “nail in the coffin” for news websites as we know it, we have a different view to offer. In an age where avenue is continually disrupted by various ad-blocker software manufacturers and developers in an attempt to deliver ad-free content, news channels lose out from reduced ad revenues. These methods, platforms and API’s from Facebook, Google and Apple appear to be all set towards changing all that, by offering a new way of delivering news content and their advertisement with the best browsing experience. The Disrupted Disruptor Disrupts.

Take a look at Apple News and Facebook. Facebook effectively gives publishers a chance to instantly publish on the Facebook ecosystem, by allowing them to use Instant Articles. Apple News, by the way, does the same. Right now, each of these services promises a no-revenue policy so long as the publishers sell the ads through their own websites, and allow them to keep 70% of the share if the ad is sold on the Facebook or iOS-app platforms.

Google’s AMP HTML is significant for what it means for JavaScript: many ads rely completely on this medium, which is why it’s important to see what it means on a stripped-down, bare-bones AMP HTML version of it. However, Google is expected to provide a more individualized ad experience via support of AMP-AD.

This concept is directly linked to the performance realized by accelerated mobile page rendering, simply because it is directly linked to bounce rates of pages. The faster an article or website loads, this means without blocking elements preventing the user to start consume the content, the better are the chances of online engagement and the ability of showing advertisement.


Drawing some Conclusions on Facebook Instant Article, Google AMP and Apple News

At the end of the day, all of these services are in their nascent stages and quite impossible to review completely and predict the future as there is nothing as more as the behaviour of people and their mobile habbits. Many of the final details remain to be seen, and performance promises remain to be proven against benchmarks. Each service has something distinct to offer: Facebook offers visibility and access on a wide range of Android, iOS devices with great graphics. Apple News provides a curated experience from usage patterns and exclusively supports iOS users with its dedicated App. Google AMP offers the open-source code to change the overall website experience, offering access to not just mobile apps but to almost all browsers. Each of these services have an exciting future ahead of them, and we’re excited to see what it will bring for the way we perceive the internet this year and in future years as well.

google-plus-one-button-winsBut because there can only be one winner in the end,  we go with Google AMP as our most favorite option. Open-source, low learning curve, extremely fast, high adoption via WordPress and simply because they are Google and dominate the Internet.

Published by AMP Coder

Support engineer and developer at AMPtemplates.com. From HTML Code to Template to Customer.

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