standard Instant Articles on Facebook and the Future of the Internet

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I can remember many years ago during the early days of the World Wide Web back in the 90’s, talking with my father about where we saw the future of the internet going – both of us thought that perhaps there would be multiple ‘webs’ or that portions of the internet would be offered in packages as subscriptions, similar to the way cable TV is sold today, where service providers could have exclusive or premium websites only available to their own subscribers. At the time neither of us would have predicted the large furore over net neutrality and the push away from what we saw as inevitable, but I can see elements of this vision now in what Facebook appears to be doing. Rather than having multiple ‘closed webs,’ Facebook would rather build a walled garden within the web itself, almost becoming a ‘mini-web’ or a ‘web-within-a-larger-web’ of sorts. At least, that’s how I’m interpreting their recent announcement of Instant Articles.

In case you haven’t heard, Instant Articles is a platform for content publishers to create content and distribute it inside Facebook itself, rather than directing users to their own websites. I am excited by the potential in this, as this allows publishers to create richer experiences than one might get from a browser. Seeing as many exclusively consume news from their Facebook news feed already, I have no doubt that this will be a huge success and will turn the industry on its head. I’m even prepared to say that this will lead the way to a new revolution in publishing, but I’d be getting ahead of myself a little. It’s still too early to say at this point.

The announcement of Instant Articles, in conjunction with other recent headlines that Facebook wants to build its own internal search engine, along with their recent partnership with HERE Maps, sends a crystal clear message about where they are going. Google wanted to connect us to all corners of the internet. Facebook wants to be the internet. For many it already is.