As mobile continues to overtake desktop reading for publishers, publishers have hustled both to design and to optimise their pages for mobile screens. The problem is that they’re not very good at it, at least if you believe Facebook. Core to the Instant Articles pitch is the idea that Facebook can load publisher content far faster than publishers can on their own sites. “These stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook,” the company said of articles users share through its platform. Facebook, in contrast, says it can load articles in a tenth of the time — or in .8 of a second.
Facebook is not an uninterested bystander. Facebook’s entire business strategy is built around attracting users and holding onto them for as long as possible in an effort to show them more ads. So it has a vested interest in pooh-poohing publishers’ engineering prowess while simultaneously trumping up its own. More, Facebook has designed its mobile app so that even content from third-party publishers appears within it, giving it the final say on how publishers sites perform.
But despite Facebook’s inherent bias, observers say that the company has a point.
“The Web in general is getting slower, but the slowest group is the publishing space,” said Craig Hyde, CEO of Rigor, which helps publishers optimise their desktop and mobile sites. “With all the things on pages, it’s amazing things happen even in eight seconds.”
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