Thoughts

Google AMP vs. Facebook Instant Articles

June 08, 2016

Learn how to meet today's need for instant gratification in the mobile space. Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles offers better user experience by speeding up the page load times on mobile.

Google Accelerated Mobile Pages vs. Facebook Instant Articles

You may have noticed that your mobile results from Google have been looking slightly different.  The rise in mobile browsing has caused a serious frustration among users because of slow loading pages. The reality we need to face is that we're all very impatient! We want something on our screens to load, and we want them to load now.

Think of when you run - you run faster without twenty pounds holding you down. Javascript codes and the constant stream of advertisements add extra weight to the mobile site, making it slower to load. The site is sweating while you're itching for your content to load. Brands that give out this content should be aware of this as it can deter users away, resulting in the user leaving to a competitor's site. It's shown users will typically leave a site if content is not loaded within four (4) seconds. Four seconds? It seems like a small time gap and one could wait, but when the the user is staring at a buffering button it seems like a millennium.  This leads to higher bounce rate, lowered conversion rate and an unhappy user. A recent study by HubSpot of over 26,000 websites made the following observations related to speed:

Most websites are not performing well. The average load time found was almost four (4) seconds -- which, by itself, is enough to cause many visitors to bounce and look elsewhere.

Slow load times in many cases is related to images and videos not being optimized or simply being overused

According to a 2016 Ericsson Mobility Study, single website loading delays lead to a 38% increase in heart rate, on average!

(Source: HubSpot "Is your mobile website stressing people out? A simple guide to increased load times")

The mobile web needed someone, something to help the world and lower the heart rates of users. Google decided to take action and announced last fall the company would be be creating an open source project. The mission? A collaborative effort by small to big blogs, publishers, and content creators alike that could freely contribute their content. The project name? Google AMP - a project which would rival Facebook Instant Articles. Both projects are aimed to create a better user experience on mobile web delivering faster load times that include articles, blog posts, and news while of course increasing traffic to their respective properties.

So what is Google AMP? What is Facebook Instant Articles? Let’s take a quick breakdown.

Google defines AMP as “Instant. Everywhere.” AMP is an open source initiative where thousands of publishers can optimize content once and have it load instantly anywhere. Publishers can build webpages for static content with minimal loading time. This is done by keeping all third party JavaScript out of the critical path, making a fast loading-lightweight web page. Meaning your content can sprint to you in record time! Publishers must work together with their developers to implement AMP's needed code while working with their UX team to strategize how users would view their content. AMP consists of three needed different codes:

  1. AMP HTML
  2. AMP JS
  3. GOOGLE AMP CACHE

(Source: Google AMP Project)

Facebook Instant Articles:

Similar to Google, Facebook aims to load lighting-fast content. The major difference from AMP is Instant Articles is not an open-source project. Brands can easily code their content to convert to AMP articles, for Facebook a publisher must go into their developer.facebook account and do some set up, add a line of code to their site, and then initially submit 10 articles for Facebook to review. Once accepted, then a publisher's articles can be readily pulled via an RSS feed and made into Instant Articles.  

User Experience

Facebook’s Instant Articles can only be accessed by...well, Facebook users. So what if you don’t have a Facebook account? You’re left out of the fun, the articles, and the shared feed of your peers. Facebook has 1.04 billion active users per day while Google has 3.5 billion searches per day. Thus, publishing on Google would potentially give more access to users and a larger audience to publishers. After all Google can be considered the base of the internet. However, it's important to note that the global average of time spent on Facebook per day is 20 minutes, while in the U.S. the average time per day on Facebook is a whopping 40 minutes! So, the sheer size of the audience isn't everything; it's a factor. (Source: Business Insider "How much time people spend on Facebook per day")

Publishing

Initially Facebook allowed a select group of publishers to use Facebook's Instant Articles, now all publishers have access; however Facebook must approve of the content before it’s shared onto Instant Articles. Facebook has integrated Instant Articles inside existing publishing tools such as WordPress to make publishing easy. There are steps you have to take and wait for approvals from Facebook, but after that, it’s fairly straightforward and can be automated. 


To help those publishers and content providers that use Wordpress as their CMS Facebook and Wordpress created an official widget which can be found here.  

The widget makes the process a bit easier, it's noted switching between your Facebook developer account and your Pages Business Manager portal can be a bit cumbersome.  In contrast, Google is a bit more straightforward. There is no requirement for approvals, submissions or account setup. In the case of AMP, it is an open source project made for brands and developers to collaborate together. A brand must simply code their needed content with AMP’s given resources, and the content is ready for the world to read - super fast! One side note, your content, however, will be hosted on Google servers rather than your own.

Speed

Both companies strive to deliver a better experience for users by speed. Google has been massively obsessed with speed and stated that its project was aimed to take out unnecessary data from Javascript codes and advertisements. This in return gives users instantaneous results. Brands should note their page load times factor into Google's search engine ranking algorithm. If brands are able to make their codes lighter, Google's algorithm can crawl faster through your site, landing you in the first few pages of a Google search. AMP results can easily be swiped from right to left finding different sources of information relating to your search topic.

Both Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles are similar and have a similar goal in creating a better user experience by speeding up page load times on mobile.

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